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Swat is one of the seven districts of the Malakand Division in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, or NWFP.
This once-popular Hindu Kush tourist destination is located around 170 kilometers northeast of Peshawar, the provincial capital of NWFP and the gateway to Afghanistan. Although Swat is known as the Switzerland of Asia because of its scenic beauty, the name became more familiar to many across the world following the emergence of the Taliban in the mid-2000s and the subsequent Pakistani military operations in the valley. Talibanization in Swat brought destruction to the otherwise peaceful area, and hundreds of people--anti-Taliban and bystanders--were gunned down, beheaded, kidnapped, or expelled from their homes. These violent excesses and the reactions throughout Pakistan to them finally forced the Pakistani government to take serious action, which culminated in the launch of Operation Rah-e-Raast, or “Right Path,” in April 2009. The offensive mostly quelled the militant movement in Swat, while killing nearly 600 Taliban foot soldiers and some of their leaders. However, nearly 2.5 million people were displaced from the Malakand area following the launch of the operation, scores of civilians were killed, and much property was destroyed by Pakistani military air power and artillery shelling. Citizens of Swat were finally able to return in mid-July that year after the Taliban was routed, although occasional incidents continue today.
Daud Khan Khattak is a Pashtun journalist currently working with the Radio Mashal, a project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague. Khattak has worked with Pakistan's English dailies The News and Daily Times, Afghanistan's Pajhwok Afghan News, and has also written for Christian Science Monitor and London's Sunday Times.
The NWFP is being renamed Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa.