Pakistan's prime minister has pledged to restore peace to the country's troubled Swat valley where Al Jazeera has found Taliban fighters to be firmly in control.
"We are finding a way out. We do not want to disclose the strategy right now, but soon Swat will be peaceful, like the rest of the country," Yusuf Raza Gilani said on Monday.
The Pakistani military, with 20,000 troops trying to wrest back control of the region from the Taliban, claimed on Monday that it had killed 70 fighters in what has become an almost daily declaration of progress.
But Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from the Swat valley, said the Pakistani Taliban was running what amounts to a parallel government there and was firmly in control.
Residents were living in fear and government forces and other state employees were bearing the brunt of many attacks, some even being beheaded, as fighters loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a local leader, waged an armed campaign against the government, our correspondent said.
The Pakistan military launched an operation against the groups operating in Swat in 2007, but Fazlullah's supporters have blown up 173 schools - 105 of them for girls - since 2007, Sher Afzal, a Pakistani education ministry official, said last month.
The violence was getting out of control, with decapitated bodies of policemen left with notes warning the authorities, a common sight on streets in the area, our correspondent said.
Elected representatives who had promised to bring peace left the area after the escalation of violence, leaving the people in the lurch, he added.
Hundreds of people have reportedly fled the area in recent days, heading for two relief camps opened at schools in and near the region's main city of Mingora.
Wajid Ali Khan, a provincial minister, said "the fighting in the valley has made it almost impossible for civilians to stay there".
Up to a third of the 1.5 million population are estimated to have left Swat, which until recently was a prime tourist destination because of its natural beauty and ski resorts.
Imtiaz Gul, a Pakistani security analyst, told Al Jazeera that what prevails in Swat "is a very difficult and complex situation" that will need both a military and political approach to resolve.
"It has to be a combination of blitzkrieg, surgical strikes and operations in the Swat valley, backed up by the civilian administration as well as the political leadership," he said.
"Most of the representatives have simply abandoned the area for fear of their lives ... more than 70 per cent of policemen have either left their jobs, are sitting at home, or have been eliminated or executed."
Prime Minister Gilani suggested that negotiations could end the violence.
"We are looking at various options. We have both the capacity and the will, but we want a strategy in which there is no collateral damage," he said.
But some security officials have criticised a previous peace deal with pro-Taliban fighters for allowing them to regroup and strengthen.