THE temerity of Swat militants' to summon 43 prominent figures of the country, including politicians and elders of the valley, to appear before their so-called Sharia court, is proof enough of their undisputed sway over the area, a disturbing phenomenon to which informed circles have been drawing attention for quite a while. To all intents and purposes, the authorisation given to COAS Gen Ashfaque Kayani to exercise his judgement whether a military operation was called for and, if so, of what intensity, has not produced the desired outcome. In fact, the situation has become so dauntingly complicated, that a military operation alone is hardly a viable option. The pity is that for so long the fanatical fringe, under the leadership of firebrand Maulvi Fazlullah, has been allowed to spread its message among the largely illiterate population through his illegal FM radio station, with the result that its ranks have swelled. That has made things so much harder for the government, that it no longer is able to exercise its writ over a large part of the valley. And the militant commanders have the guts to threaten with dire consequences those who they think have transgressed the limits imposed by the Sharia. The 43 persons in question have been declared wanted by them and are deemed liable to punishment under the Islamic law as they interpret them. Apparently, these wanted persons have already been pronounced guilty by the local Taliban of being vocal in criticising militancy and condemning the blowing up of schools and the banning of female education. In their unenlightened view, which is inconsistent with the real teachings of the glorious religion, Islam forbids education to women. They have threatened the wanted persons with arrest or murder if they do not voluntarily present themselves before the court, which will judge them under the militants' code. Can one hope that the challenge, which the menacing threat poses, would be met with firmness and a clear sense of purpose and the writ of the state squarely established?