Do the Swatis exist?

Only till two weeks before, Pakistan’s overwhelmingly right wing media, the traditionally left leaning Awami National Party (ANP), the born again Islamists like Imran Khan, right of the centre Nawaz League, and the centrist Zardari People’s Party were applauding the agreement between the ANP government and the Taliban. With the honorable exception of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), the entire political leadership of Pakistan ganged up and pushed the ANP-Taliban agreement through the national assembly without a word by way of debate. This was a complete disgrace to whatever democracy stands for. There were people like Dr Hoodbhai who called the agreement an appeasement, but all the dissenting voices, very few of them indeed, were killed off by the government and the media. It was claimed that soon the agreement would result in total peace in Swat. TV channels cried hoarse claiming that the people of Swat had been dying for the agreement. “The people of Swat want peace and this agreement will restore peace”. TV reporters gave countless “verbatim” accounts of the sudden explosions of joy in every part of the Swat valley. I remember watching a foul-mouthed anchor, who is dead sure there are Jews and Hindus behind every trouble in Pakistan, claiming that “a wave of euphoria has swept the entire peace-loving people of Swat who are willing to sacrifice everything for peace and Islam”.

Interestingly, no Swatis were ever interviewed to voice the above claims.

And now that the Pakistan Army has declared a war on the Taliban, the media and the political leadership including the ANP have started claiming that the Taliban are not only terrorists of the worst kind, they want to take over the entire country. Now anchor after anchor and reporter after reporter is giving “verbatim” accounts of what the Swatis are saying: “We are willing to pay any price to get rid of the Taliban and restore peace in the Swat valley.” Suddenly the tables have turned. And yet, few Swatis have said what they want. If the media shows interviews of non-Swatis posing as Swatis, that would be another matter.

Do the Swatis exist? If they do, what do they want? Has any journalist or politician gone to the people of Swat to find out? On whose command was the nation of Pakistan told that the Swatis were happy with the Taliban? By what process have the Swatis undergone a complete change of heart?

The question is: who is behind all this show. On whose command do the journalists, opinion makers, and politicians paint utopia and then dystopia? On whose discretion do people become freedom fighters, and then the same freedom fighters terrorists? If it was important to bring the ANP-Taliban agreement in the parliament, why was the parliament not asked to endorse the decision to wage the war?

Abbas Zaidi



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