SWAT -  Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, while evaluating the sacrifices of the people of Swat region in the fight against terrorism, has reiterated that the army operation against militancy in the troubled areas would continue till the complete elimination of this scourge.

He expressed these remarks while laying the foundation stone of Swat Cantonment here on Friday.

The cantonment was approved on 8th September 2015 on popular demand of the people in view of the much-needed long-term security for the region.

Corps Commander Peshawar Lieutenant-General Hidayatur Rehman, DG ISPR Lieutenant-General Asim Saleem Bajwa, and other senior military officers accompanied the chief of army staff on the one-day visit.

KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak, GOC Malakand Division Major-General Asif Ghafoor, KP chief secretary, and other civil and military officers warmly welcomed the COAS upon his arrival.  On this occasion, a large numbers of locals and elders of the valley were also present.  During the visit, General Sharif inaugurated construction work of Swat Cantonment.

Speaking on the occasion, the COAS paid his gratitude to the people of Swat for their valiant stand against reign of terror and standing alongside the security forces to throw terrorists out of the valley forever. Congratulating the people of Swat, he reaffirmed army’s commitment to continue playing an effective role in bringing lasting peace and security to Swat.

The Cantonment will also contribute to local socio-economic development for the area. The COAS said that development of FATA and Malakand was a priority task being executed as a well-considered strategy.

The army has undertaken over 700 mega and minor projects so far in social sector in the areas where operations were carried out. These projects are aimed to improve the quality of life of locals and address the problem of militancy on a long-term basis.

The whole world acknowledges Pakistan Army for uniquely completing the entire cycle of fighting terrorism from operations to reconstruction and resettling the displaced people back in the area, the COAS said.

General Sharif also appreciated the continued support of the locals in combating terrorism and acknowledged their sacrifices in war against terrorism, which became critical to the army’s success. He said that the army was well-trained and was prepared for any untoward situation.

General Sharif said every soldier of Pakistan Army wished to embrace martyrdom, while protecting their motherland.  He further said that he had a very close association with Swat as his parents good friends hailed from the area.

General Sharif said that he was in Grade 4 when he visited Swat for the first time along with his family and stayed for almost one month.

The chief minister, governor KP and local elders of the area thanked the COAS and the Pakistan Army for laying the foundation stone of the cantonment.

The COAS also visited the recently completed Sheikh Khalifa bin Zaid Model Hospital Swat.

Appreciating the quality of hospital and facilities, he along with locals and hospital staff, thanked the UAE government for their contribution towards the socio-economic development of the area. UAE Ambassador Essa Abdulla Albasha al-Noaimi was also present on the occasion.

Talking to this correspondent, Sheharyar Amirzeb member of the royal family of Swat said that it was very pleasing for the entire district. He said, “if we look at it from a security point of view, if peace persists in the area, tourists will visit the valley due to which economy will get a boost.”  Amirzeb said that peace would result in job opportunities for locals.

Usman Ulasyar, chairman Suvastu Arts and Culture Association, said that the local people would cooperate more if army officials fulfilled their promise that civilian people’s children will be allowed to get treatment at CMH and education at Army Public school. 

Idress Khan, Chairman Village Defense Committee, said that establishment of cantonment would certainly develop the area and Pakistan Army was already doing well in Swat.  If militants planned to enter Swat in future in the presence of the army it will thwart their intensions no doubt, he added.

There is so much talent in Swat but there is a dearth of opportunity, the APS will provide a platform to them where they will be able to excel, Idrees said.

Later, the COAS also visited the under-construction state-of-the-art Army Public School.

It is pertinent to mention here that Swat Cantonment will be constructed in three different locations – that 88 per cent of the construction will take place at Kanju, eight per cent at Khuwaza Khela, while four per cent will be constructed at Shangla.