SOS message from Swat, Pakistan to Mr. Richard Holbrooke

Urgent appeal to Mr. Richard Holbrooke. If you want to understand, expose and address the unholy nexus between the Taliban and the Pakistan Army (ISI), focus your attention on what is happening in Swat.

It is an SOS message from the majority of the innocent peace loving women, men, children and school going girls from Swat and the rest of Pakistan to the international community. Please save us from the cruel, unholy nexus of the Taliban and the evil-jihadi minded elements in Pakistan Army and the ISI.

For a complete account of what is happening in Swat, read the articles provided at the following link:

The following is a most comprehensive recent report by The New York Times.


Radio Spreads Taliban’s Terror in Pakistani Region

Published: January 24, 2009

Pakistani Taliban punished a man accused of impersonating one of them to extort money in Matta, in the volatile Swat Valley.

Swat Map

Hundreds gathered Jan. 11 in Swat to watch drug dealers punished. The Taliban also have made it a crime to shave a beard.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading.

Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.

“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”

International attention remains fixed on the Taliban’s hold on Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas, from where they launch attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, the loss of the Swat Valley could prove just as devastating.

Unlike the fringe tribal areas, Swat, a Delaware-size chunk of territory with 1.3 million residents and a rich cultural history, is part of Pakistan proper, within reach of Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the capital.

After more than a year of fighting, virtually all of it is now under Taliban control, marking the militants’ farthest advance eastward into Pakistan’s so-called settled areas, residents and government officials from the region say.

With the increasing consolidation of their power, the Taliban have taken a sizable bite out of the nation. And they are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam with cruelty, bringing public beheadings, assassinations, social and cultural repression and persecution of women to what was once an independent, relatively secular region, dotted with ski resorts and fruit orchards and known for its dancing girls.

Last year, 70 police officers were beheaded, shot or otherwise slain in Swat, and 150 wounded, said Malik Naveed Khan, the police inspector general for the North-West Frontier Province.

The police have become so afraid that many officers have put advertisements in newspapers renouncing their jobs so the Taliban will not kill them.

One who stayed on the job was Farooq Khan, a midlevel officer in Mingora, the valley’s largest city, where decapitated bodies of policemen and other victims routinely surface. Last month, he was shopping there when two men on a motorcycle sprayed him with gunfire, killing him in broad daylight.

“He always said, ‘I have to stay here and defend our home,’ ” recalled his brother, Wajid Ali Khan, a Swat native and the province’s minister for environment, as he passed around a cellphone with Farooq’s picture.

In the view of analysts, the growing nightmare in Swat is a capsule of the country’s problems: an ineffectual and unresponsive civilian government, coupled with military and security forces that, in the view of furious residents, have willingly allowed the militants to spread terror deep into Pakistan.

The crisis has become a critical test for the government of the civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, and for a security apparatus whose loyalties, many Pakistanis say, remain in question.

Seeking to deflect blame, Mr. Zardari’s government recently criticized “earlier halfhearted attempts at rooting out extremists from the area” and vowed to fight militants “who are ruthlessly murdering and maiming our citizens.”

But as pressure grows, he has also said in recent days that the government would be willing to talk with militants who accept its authority. Such negotiations would carry serious risks: security officials say a brief peace deal in Swat last spring was a spectacular failure that allowed militants to tighten their hold and take revenge on people who had supported the military.

Without more forceful and concerted action by the government, some warn, the Taliban threat in Pakistan is bound to spread.

“The crux of the problem is the government appears divided about what to do,” said Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier who until 2006 was in charge of security in the western tribal areas. “This disconnect among the political leadership has emboldened the militants.”

From 2,000 to 4,000 Taliban fighters now roam the Swat Valley, according to interviews with a half-dozen senior Pakistani government, military and political officials involved in the fight. By contrast, the Pakistani military has four brigades with 12,000 to 15,000 men in Swat, officials say.

The Taliban are thought to be responsible for the killing of a popular Swat Valley dancing girl, Shabana, whose body, above, was found Jan. 2 in Mingora. The Taliban have made gains in the strategic region, in part by meting out harsh punishments.
But the soldiers largely stay inside their camps, unwilling to patrol or exert any large presence that might provoke — or discourage — the militants, Swat residents and political leaders say. The military also has not raided a small village that locals say is widely known as the Taliban’s headquarters in Swat.

Nor have troops destroyed mobile radio transmitters mounted on motorcycles or pickup trucks that Shah Doran and the leader of the Taliban in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, have expertly used to terrify residents.

Being named in one of the nightly broadcasts often leaves just two options: fleeing Swat, or turning up headless and dumped in a village square.

When the army does act, its near-total lack of preparedness to fight a counterinsurgency reveals itself. Its usual tactic is to lob artillery shells into a general area, and the results have seemed to hurt civilians more than the militants, residents say.

In some parts of Pakistan, civilian militias have risen to fight the Taliban. But in Swat, the Taliban’s gains amid a large army presence has convinced many that the military must be conspiring with the Taliban.

“It’s very mysterious how they get so much weapons and support,” while nearby districts are comparatively calm, said Muzaffar ul-Mulk Khan, a member of Parliament from Swat, who said his home near Mingora was recently destroyed by the Taliban.

“We are bewildered by the military. They patrol only in Mingora. In the rest of Swat they sit in their bases. And the militants can kill at will anywhere in Mingora,” he said.

“Nothing is being done by the government,” Mr. Khan added.

Accusations that the military lacks the will to fight in Swat are “very unfair and unjustified,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the chief military spokesman, who said 180 army soldiers and officers had been killed in Swat in the past 14 months.

“They do reach out, and they do patrol,” he said.

Military officials also say they are trying to step up activity in Swat. This weekend, soldiers were deployed to protect a handful of educational buildings in Mingora, amid a wave of school bombings.

General Abbas said the military did not have the means to block Taliban radio transmissions across such a wide area, but he disputed the view that Mingora had fallen to the militants.

“Just because they come out at night and throw down four or five bodies in the square does not mean that militants control anything,” he said.

Few officials would dispute that one of the Pakistani military’s biggest mistakes in Swat was its failure to protect Pir Samiullah, a local leader whose 500 followers fought the Taliban in the village of Mandal Dag. After the Taliban killed him in a firefight last month, the militants demanded that his followers reveal his gravesite — and then started beheading people until they got the information, one Mandal Dag villager said.

“They dug him up and hung his body in the square,” the villager said, and then they took the body to a secret location. The desecration was intended to show what would happen to anyone who defied the Taliban’s rule, but it also made painfully clear to Swat residents that the Pakistani government could not be trusted to defend those who rose up against the militants.

“He should have been given more protection,” said one Pakistani security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject. “He should have been made a symbol of resistance.”

Gruesome displays like the defilement of Pir Samiullah’s remains are an effective tactic for the Taliban, who have shown cruel efficiency in following through on their threats.

Recently, Shah Doran broadcast word that the Taliban intended to kill a police officer who he said had killed three people.

“We have sent people, and tomorrow you will have good news,” he said on his nightly broadcast, according to a resident of Matta, a Taliban stronghold. The next day the decapitated body of the policeman was found in a nearby village.

Even in Mingora, a town grown hardened to violence, residents were shocked early this month to find the bullet-ridden body of one of the city’s most famous dancing girls splayed on the main square.

Known as Shabana, the woman was visited at night by a group of men who claimed to want to hire her for a party. They shot her to death and dragged her body more than a quarter-mile to the central square, leaving it as a warning for anyone who would flout Taliban decrees.

The leader of the militants in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, gained prominence from making radio broadcasts and running an Islamic school, becoming popular among otherwise isolated homemakers and inspiring them to sell their jewelry to finance his operation. He also drew support from his marriage to the daughter of Sufi Mohammed, a powerful religious leader in Swat until 2001 who later disowned his son-in-law.

Even though Swat does not border Afghanistan or any of Pakistan’s seven lawless federal tribal areas, Maulana Fazlullah eventually allied with Taliban militants who dominate regions along the Afghan frontier.

His fighters now roam the valley with sniper rifles, Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortar tubes and, according to some officials, night-vision goggles and flak vests.

His latest tactic is a ban on girls’ attending school in Swat, which will be tested in February when private schools are scheduled to reopen after winter recess. The Taliban have already destroyed 169 girls’ schools in Swat, government officials say, and they expect most private schools to stay closed rather than risk retaliation.

“The local population is totally fed up, and if they had the chance they would lynch each and every Talib,” said Mr. Naveed Khan, the police official. “But the Taliban are so cruel and violent, no one will oppose them. If this is not stopped, it will spill into other areas of Pakistan.”


Some Comments:

OMG, can’t anyone stop this cruel regime? How could the Taliban get hold of money and guns? Why do people let other people do stupid things in the name of religion? Why is UN so impotent? This is so depressing.

— claudia, denver

What do they call that armed, unmanned drone – THe Predator? Hmm.

— Cedarglen, Oregon

Well… the birds come home to roost. ISI’s support of the Taliban now reverberates internally within Pakistan? It seems that no historical lessons can be learned, indeed. Zardari should consider inviting the Israelis to assist Pakistan in rooting out the evil in their midst.

— ML, Kabul, AFG

Obama needs to get a grip on Pakistan early in his administration rather than later. A comprehensive plan of dealing with and containing any fall out of Pakistan’s Talibanization should be formulated. Despite years of NATO presence in the region it is clear that the Pakistani government or the Pakistani intelligence and military are NOT part of the solution. American aid to these agencies only emboldens them and in turn the Taliban. Unless severe economic and diplomatic pressure is exerted on Pakistan to reign in terrorists like the Taliban on its soil, there is not going be any change.

— Ian, NYC

If there was ever a chance for us–the U.S– to show leadership in the region, it is now.

We must do something that gives hope to the embattled people of Swat. I have seen the valley in happier times and I know its people want to live a normal life. I despair and cringe when I think of little school children–especially girls–who will never know the pleasure of reading, writing, or thinking for themselves. We have to convince the government of Pakistan it is time to take action against destruction being wrought by the Taliban. We have to help them in every way.

We can’t just let remote controlled drones do our work. It is time for us to act on the ground. But I am not sure that will happen. We seek expedient answers in a place where expediency won’t work. I hope President Obama will act to bring peace to a place that once welcomed people from America with broad smiles and not with the hatred they do now.

— S.B., Anchorage, Alaska

If the Taliban cancer, like the breast cancer, is not nipped at the bud stage, it will spread and most certainly metastasize and destroy the newly democratic Pakistan. Part of the blame for this belongs to the USA also because, while proclaiming loudly that it loves democracy, it has consistently and unwaveringly supported its former dictator, the corrupt President Musharraf for ten years (1999 to August 18, 2008). Musharraf turned a blind eye towards the Taliban and allowed it to spread, and some of his generals even supported the Taliban. It is quite reasonable to expect similar results, next in Egypt, whose dictator Mubarak American presidents have supported for decades, and then in Jordan, whose King American presidents adore. This policy is not only short sighted, it is hypocritical too.

United States should encourage Prime Minister Zardari to immediately send a huge army to fumigate the entire Swat area and eradicate the Taliban infestation(or swat them as one would a fly?). It should be very easy to spot the infested towns: just look for areas where every man has beard and then look for and cull Taliban’s ruthless leaders. The time to act is now. Prime Minister Zardari should waste no more time.

Poverty, discontent, and lack of good educational opportunity are the breeding grounds of the Taliban. In northern India, even in areas dominated by Muslims, Taliban hasn’t taken root because the people have access to schools and they have at least some hope for a better life in the future.

— Yesh Prabhu, Plainsboro, NJ

As far as I know, triangulating the source of radio transmissions should be fairly easy. Are the Pakistani military complicit, or just afraid to do anything? Reading your article I think the Swat residents would welcome foreign help in removing the Taliban, if the Pakistani government would be courageous enough to invite them. People in Pakistan should realize that the Taliban are as much a foreign power as western nations are. The Taliban are not about religion, but only about gaining power to abuse people. The Taliban are perverting Islam to meet their own (secular) interests.

— Math Fuzzy, Europe

Pakistani Terrorism + Pakistani Taliban + ISI + Nuclear Weapons = Goodbye America.

— Amit, NYC

ISI brought out this jinnee from the bottle.World and Pakistan government should ask ISI to go to Swat and face this terrible music.Pretty faces of women activists appearing on Paki TV to ” defend” their rights, have a lot to defend,before Taliban reaches their cosy homes in Lahor,Islamabad and Karachi.Pak armed forces keep warning India about giving befitting reply in case of a conflict.They too should feel ashamed that they are unable to rein in these mercenaries.Taliban is an American gift to this part of the world.Mr.Barak Obama has his role cut out, if he wants US policies to succeed in Afghanistan-Pakistan.Are Russians having the last laugh?

— Jitendra Desai, Surat – Gujarat- India

Everytime I read of these activities I become enraged. Enraged not by the ignorance of those dealing out such practices but enraged at the lack of anger coming from the rest of the world, the UN, other great countries that would view these activities as anti-human, barbarism. Yet, there is no outrage, there is no condemnation what there is, is silent tolerance of a regime of hatred murder, power mongering, fear producing and terrorism based on a belief that I can only describe as insane. Yet the world watches and does NOTHING !!!!!

— Eddie Z, New York

Swat is charming tourist attraction. It was a very peaceful place having nice and and courteous people. Crimes are committed in the name of religion. In this area writ of the Government must be maintained at any cost. Obviously some thing is wrong somewhere.

— snashraf, Karachi

Islamic radicalism like Saudi-supported wahaabism and the taliban movement could be strongly denounced by Islamic thinkers and theologians (imams and others). That would be the first step before military action and effective supression. As long as many of the 1.5 billion muslims in the world believe these guys are rightful western military action will be as effective as trying to mop up a raising tide.

However, no such condemnation is being heard, aside from one or another isolated, usually european-muslim religious authorities. Saudi Arabia, the birth place of Islam and protector of its most holy places is stunningly silent.

The US and most of Europe have the saudis as allies (all that oil…) so it is hard to see any end to the disgusting, insane radicalism. I pity the moderate Pakistanis, a talented and intelligent people that have to submit to such barbaric medieval savagery.

— Pete, Sao Paulo

Taliban got to be crushed and there is no other option. Pakistani army and security establihment has failed in making any real progress, despite tall claims that army operation has been undertaken to control the situation. What is pakistani army for? Why is it so ineffective?Why cant it control a group of few thousand hardliners and mercenaries who have terrorised the whole region. People are being misled and great efforts are being made in pakistani media to portray all this as the price of supporting the American war on terror. The civilian government, led by nationalist party, in the Frontier province has been made totally ineffective as elected representatives fear for their lives. Who is supporting and financing taliban? Why is no one talking about Saudi connection as huge amount of private saudi money is coming to support the arab millitants operating in the region. The new amerian administration got to act quickly against taliban and all whats happening in the tribal/swat region of pakistan.It has got to support Pakistani civilian government and send a clear message to Pakistani establishment that it has got to deliver by crushing taliban and not to play with fire any more.

— BUK, Karachi, Pakistan