KARACHI, Pakistan—Hundreds of Pakistani police have quit their jobs in fear after Taliban threats in the northern tourist valley of Swat, where pitched battles have been continuing between the Pakistan Army and militants for over a year.
A senior police official, asking not to be named, said that around 350 cops have so far resigned from their posts, threatened by Taliban militants to either leave their jobs or get ready for "dire consequences." The figure may rise as scores of other cops have refused to work in the violence-stricken areas of Swat.
Militants belonging to pro-Taliban Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-e-Mohammadi (in English, the Movement for Enforcement of Islamic Law), led by Maulana Fazlullah, have been battling Pakistani authorities for a year and a half.
The mountainous Swat Valley, in northwestern Pakistan, had been a popular tourist destination for the nation's middle class. But the region has become a battleground as militants allied with Pakistan's Taliban movement launched a violent campaign for the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the valley. The militants have advanced across Swat Valley, burning homes and schools and beheading opponents as they seek to enforce their harsh brand of Islamic law.
The TNSM has been splintered into two groups. A groups of hawks led by Fazlullah, locally know as Maulana Radio (because of his FM radio station), has been engaged in battles with security forces, while another group led by his father-in-law, Sufi Mohammed, carries a nonviolent image, and wants to enforce Sharia law through peaceful means.
The TNSM militants issued a warning to the local policemen a month ago to resign from their posts rather than "fight their own people." The militants had advised the policemen who quit their jobs to advertise their names in local papers so that they would not be attacked in future. As a result, the local newspapers have been publishing ads on behalf of those who have quit. There have been about 1,200 policemen's names printed in the Swat area.
The threats are effective because of ruthless attacks on the police. Some 102 policemen have been killed by militants in Swat and its adjoining areas during the past 10 months. Some were kidnapped and later slaughtered by suspected Taliban militants while some of them were said to have committed suicide.
Muslim Khan, a purported spokesman of the local Taliban, welcomes the policemen's decision to quit and warns others to follow them as soon as possible. "We have warned the policemen a month ago to quit their jobs," he told U.S. News. "Those who have followed our instructions are safe, but those who still stick to their jobs should get ready for the consequences."