From Swat – with no love
The main town of Swat, Mingora, has now virtually fallen to the militants. The police are escorted by army officials and come out from their ‘hide-outs’ only for a couple of hours. One of the busiest squares, Grain chowk, was renamed by the shopkeepers as ‘Khooni chowk’ because when they come to their shops in the morning on each day they find four or five dead bodies hung over the poles or the trees. They see dead bodies scattered along the foot path in the morning. The bodies are usually headless. The practice goes thus with an average of four deaths daily in the square. Similarly on each morning there are found bodies with their throats slit in Qambar, Kabal, Matta, Khawza Khela and Charbagh. This practice has been going on for weeks; and unfortunately does not seem to stop.
Jan 15 is the deadline set by the militants to close all schools, especially those of girls. As the deadline approaches people are getting more and more terrified. The government’s writ is all but absent. Nazims have been killed, women are not allowed to visit bazaars (which are deserted), NGOs have stopped working and children play a ‘Fauji Taliban’ game. The people live a miserable life in the cold. Most bridges have been damaged and beyond the main town phones have been dead for months. Most people live in darkness at night because the fighting has badly affected the power infrastructure as well.
Curfew is imposed constraining the people inside for days on end. And security forces personnel sometimes fire indiscriminately. The residents can do nothing – they cannot protest against the high-handedness of the military or stand up to the militants. The Taliban gain from strength to strength, partly aided by the use of FM radio. Various checkposts set up by the security forces seem to be no little use. Scores of militants entered Kalam last week in spite of six checkposts set up from from Bagh Dahri to Bahrain. It is quite clear that for now the victors in the war are the Taliban – and the losers the people of Swat.
But who cares about that in the rest of the country. The government seems too busy dealing with the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage. That said, the predicament of the people of Swat is worse than even of the people of Gaza. In Gaza the enemy is well known but in Swat the people know not who the enemy is and whom to hold responsible.
The civil society of any country is regarded as a great force to mobilize the general public against the violation of civil rights and liberty. It is considered as a bulwark against the violation of human rights. It is deemed as the upholder of people’s rights where the state fails to deliver. Its mettle was tested in the lawyers’ movement but we in Swat wonder why it is silent now? We hear no voice raise against the atrocities committed in Swat. No civil society organization has its voice against the plight of the women and children in Swat. We have not seen a single demonstration in the big cities against the monster of militancy in Swat, or in FATA for that matter. The media also seems apathetic about the plight. The print media does well to some extent but their scope is limited.
The people of Swat ask you to come out on their behalf and mobilize the general public against the war tearing the valley. We implore you to come out of your drawing rooms and stage protests so that the government does something about our plight.
The writer is a social activist who lives in Swat. Email: angeltorwali @gmail.com
Thursday, January 08, 2009 (The News)
Taliban appoint new Emirs (Chiefs) for Mardan and Peshawar BBC Urdu Report