The Pakistan Army on Monday handed over the administrative control of the restive Swat district to the civil authorities, ending its decade-long military operation to flush out the Pakistani Taliban militants and restore peace in the home town of Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.

The Army was first sent to the picturesque Swat district of the Khyber-Pakthunkhwa province in 2007 when a local cleric and chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Maulana Fazlullah challenged the writ of the state and set up his Sharia courts.

Taliban later launched an organised movement and extended its network to the adjoining districts. They imposed several restrictions, including banning girls’ education, making mandatory wearing of burqa for women and keeping beard for men, among others.

In 2009, the government launched a major military operation against the TTP, during a large number of people were forced to abandon their homes in Swat, Buner and other districts.

Malala, who shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Indian children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, was shot at by Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls’ education, which was forbidden under the militants’ rule over Swat. The 15-year-old was flown to Britain for better treatment and further education. In March, she visited her home town for the first time after being shot at.

The Army handed over the symbol of authority to the Commissioner, Malakand Division and Regional Police Officer (RPO) at a ceremony, which was attended by Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mehmood Khan, Corps Commander Peshawar, Lieutenant General Nazir Ahmed Bhut, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Salahuddin, General-Officer-in-Command Swat Major General Khalid Saeed, officials said.

The elders’ of the area and other civil and military officers also attended the function, during which a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of administrative authority was handed over the Chief Minister, they said.

Hailing the Army for successfully launching the operation against terrorism and restoring peace in Swat, Mr. Khan said, the military has made a history by transferring the administrative powers back to the civil authorities.

The Chief Minister, who hails from Matta tehsil of Swat district, said that terrorists wrecked havoc with lives of innocent people. He said he himself was an eye witness to the Taliban’s barbaric acts in 2009. He recalled that terrorists did not spare even the educational institutions and destroyed their buildings.

Mr. Khan said the cowardly and gruesome acts of the terrorists could not deter the resilient people of Swat and they were subsequently defeated by the Army, police force and other law enforcement forces and lasting peace was achieved.

Addressing the gathering, Lt Gen Ahmed said that 3.5 million people were dislocated in Swat district when militants tried to take control of the administrative affairs of Swat district.

The Army, he said, launched successful operations and eliminated terrorists in four month from the district and other areas of Malakand Division and rehabilitated the displaced people.