Islamabad, May 8 (ANI): As many as 600,000 to 800,000 Pakistani refugees are streaming from the mountains and valleys of the greater Swat region, leaving the Pakistan Government with the gigantic task of rehabilitating them, the Central Science Monitor reports.
Pakistan Government has a make or break chance to win the public acceptance.
Much depends on how these refugees are treated, on how quickly and definitively the Pakistani Army moves to defeat the Taliban insurgents in the region, and - if the Army is successful - on what the refugees encounter once they return home, the report says.
Public alarm over the Taliban and their extreme brand of Islamic justice is quickly escalating. At first, the militants appealed to fellow Muslims in the untamed northwest of this struggling democracy.
They won sympathy by railing against foreign infidels (the US and its allies) and against the government's support of those infidels. They promised to restore law and order.
In February, Islamabad mistakenly thought it could keep the Taliban in check through a deal that promised Islamic sharia courts in exchange for the insurgents' disarmament.
But the Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islamic law has since turned many against them.
Horrified refugees confirm reports of public flogging, brutal killings, and the burning of schools and police headquarters. And the Taliban did not lay down arms, but rather moved aggressively toward Islamabad, coming within 60 miles of the capital.
Pakistan knows of refugees. At the partition of British India - which led to Pakistani independence in 1947 - about 14.5 million people moved between the two countries.
Pakistan took in roughly 4 million Afghans during the Soviet occupation and guerrilla war that followed. But over the years, the Afghan camps became breeding grounds for the Taliban.
That could happen with their own people if the Pakistani Army does not take this opportunity to thoroughly and speedily put down the insurgents at a time when civilians are clearing the area. (ANI)