Pakistan to boost Swat valley police

Thousands of people who suffered under the brutal rule of the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat valley could be recruited into a bolstered police force as part of a plan to protect the area against a possible resurgence of militants.

With the valley's police force severely depleted as a result of the Taliban's policy of targeting security officials, the authorities see rebuilding the forces of law and order as an essential component of restoring public confidence and persuading people to return.

To speed up the process of building the force, the authorities intend to recruit 6,000 civilians and 2,500 former military personnel. Many of those who sign up are likely to be recruited by officials touring refugee camps that are home to hundreds of thousands of people forced out of their homes when the military launched its operation to oust the Taliban from the Swat valley. Preference is to be given to the Taliban's victims.

"[To fight an insurgency] the people have to be actively with you," Malik Naveed Khan, the inspector general of police for the North West Frontier Province, told the Associated Press.

Before the militants invaded the Swat valley in 2007, the popular tourist destination was considered a "soft district". Crime rates were low and there were around just 2,000 lightly armed officers for a population of around 1.75 million.

The police were easily overwhelmed by the insurgents who attacked their buildings, beheaded officers and targeted checkpoints. Such was the fear among the police that many took out advertisements with local newspapers announcing that they had left the force and were no longer officers. The pressure from militants, led by the radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah was relentless; at least 120 officers were killed and around 700 quit.

Mr Khan said the authorities were looking for "able-bodied, tough people with a clear background". He said the salary for the police will be about £80 a month.

* Pakistani police investigating the attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore in March said they have made their first arrest. Six other suspects are said to have fled to the Afghan border region.

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