You Think You Had a Tough First Day?

ABC News' Nick Schifrin and Habibullah Khan report from Islamabad, Pakistan:

The first day of work is, usually, all about finding your way: how long it takes to get to the office, where you're going to sit, who your coworkers are and what they think of the new guy.

But in Pakistan's Swat Valley, where the Taliban have waged a yearlong campaign of true terror against the local population, the first day on the job is so much worse than anything you've ever feared.

This afternoon, on his very first day as Swat's district coordination officer – the top post in local government --  Khushal Khan was kidnapped. A group of masked men stopped his car, apparently overpowered his six armed guards and whisked him away for a little talking-to.

Khan was released about eight hours later in exchange for the release of two Taliban prisoners, sources told us this evening. But the Taliban's message will last far longer than that: Welcome to work. We can do whatever we want, and you can't stop us.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that the Taliban can kidnap a local government official. But we are in the middle of a cease-fire during which the Taliban has publicly agreed to consider laying down their weapons in return for the imposition of Sharia, Islamic law.

So much for a cease-fire.

They've broken it at least three times in the last week: Once to kill a respected local TV reporter; once to speak ill of the local government on their pirated radio broadcasts; and today, when they kidnapped Khan.

The outgoing district coordination officer, Shaukat Yousafzai, told us tonight it was a “clear violation” of the cease-fire. And a senior government official told us that the military will be sending additional troops into Swat, though they will remain in a “defensive” position.

Politically, the kidnapping will put more pressure on the Pakistani government to abandon what Richard Holbrooke, the new U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, fears could be a "surrender" to the Taliban.

“The governments have gone through such agreements before,” Zubair Towali, a Swat human rights activist, told us last week when the agreement was first announced. “And those didn’t work. It just gives the militants a chance to regroup and regain power.”

That seems to be the message the U.S. will send when Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as well as Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and Pakistani spy agency chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Pasha, arrive in Washington this week for a Holbrookian conversation about the future of U.S.-Afghan-Pakistani relations. There is a real fear that if the Pakistanis don't engage the Taliban militarily and let them have their Islamic law in Swat, the valley would become a safe haven for militants fighting Americans in Afghanistan.

But many people here think this is a shrewd move by the provincial government. If the Taliban refuse to honor the cease-fire, then the government will be in a better position to bring the army back into Swat to try and crush the militants in a campaign that would certainly include many civilian casualties.

“In case it fails, and the other side doesn’t abide, then I think the government will be at a high moral plane to restart the military operation,” a senior military official told us.

Either way, fixing Swat is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. I think everyone wishes Khan luck – and hopes his second day is better than his first.

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