Fighting has caused the flight of hundreds of thousands of terrified residents, adding a humanitarian emergency to the nuclear-armed nation's security, economic and political problems. The government is appealing for international aid to ease the plight of the multitude of weary, traumatized people who have abandoned their homes in search of safety.
Witness accounts indicated that scores of civilians have already been killed or injured in the escalating clashes in Swat and the neighboring Buner and Lower Dir districts.
Even the medics are gone: Only three doctors remained Saturday at the hospital in Swat's main town, Mingora — all of them working at full stretch.
Riaz Khan, a 36-year-old schoolteacher, his wife and two daughters occupied four of the beds, shrapnel wounds on their arms and their legs bandaged. Khan said his other two daughters were killed three days earlier when a mortar shell hit their home near Mingora.
"We buried our daughters on Thursday when the army relaxed the curfew," he told an Associated Press reporter. "We reached the hospital only with great difficulty."