Comparing Swat and the Hur uprising
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
This is in response to Ayesha Ibrahim’s article of Jan 26 titled ‘Swat and the Hur uprising’. The people of Swat disagree with her comparison between the Taliban in Swat and the Hurs in Sindh. They asked me to clarify through an article. I, therefore, write according to their wishes and in the light of their comments.
Pir Sibghatullah Shah, no doubt, was a great spiritual person in Sindh. His followers are known by the name of Hurs. Sindhis have always respected their saints and mystics. He could inspire, what the writer calls, fanatical devotion in his followers through his spirituality. Like Sindhis, Pukhtuns have also expressed their love and respect for their holy men across the Pukhtun belt. But Fazlullah of Swat is neither a saint nor a pir but a narrow-minded, orthodox and unscrupulous mullah, and has love for humanity, but believes in all ugliness of barbarism. Till recently, he used to be a boat handler and of course had no followers like the Pir had among the Hurs. He is holding the people hostage through violence and terror. There may have been some ostensible justifications for the Hur uprising in Sindh, but the people of Swat argue that there are no ostensible or otherwise justifications for the Taliban brutalitities in Swat.
Many people in Swat, while expressing their views through emails and telephone calls, say that the real game is that Taliban are implementing a global Wahabi extremist agenda in Swat. Khurshid Khan has mentioned this point in his article of Jan 19. They argue that the Swat Taliban will sooner rather than later try and extend their agenda to those areas in Pakistan where the environment is conducive for Talibanisation. Religious extremists are busy preparing the ground for this in parts of NWFP and southern Punjab. The Taliban, they say, want to make Swat their capital, under the control of Fazlullah who will send lieutenants to rule Pakistan, like Kandahar was for Mullah Omar. The British Indian army might not have been able to control the Hurs, but the situation here is different. The people of Swat believe that the Pakistani army is perfectly capable of controlling the Taliban but is not doing so. They say that initially the threat from Fazlullah was like that of a mosquito – a pest at best. But over time he was allowed to consolidate his power and that at best this amounts to looking the other way as he did this. It is this perception – whether right or wrong – that makes Swat a different case from the Hurs.
It is, however, pertinent to mention that the recent visit of the army chief to Mingora has raised hope in the people of Swat and they say they will wait and see how the army deals with the Taliban from now on.
The residents of Swat also do not agree with Ayesha Ibrahim’s point that the state has no presence in Swat. They argue that the state has to do a lot to improve upon its presence in Swat, but still the region is failry integrated in the state system. Many residents are in the state instituions and various walks of life in Pakistan. They have one of the best networks of educational institutions in Pakistan (now greatly damaged by the Taliban). Swat is known as the Switzerland of Pakistan and of the East. National and international tourists used to visit Swat round the year to enjoy its natural beauty. Fellow citizens of Pakistan know that the inhabitants are accomodative,moderate and hospitable people.
There are strong voices for negotiation with the Taliban in Pakistan. But the victimised people of Swat, a significant proportion of whom have lost their near and dear ones, want the Taliban to be eliminated from the face of the valley through force. “How can people even think of a dilaogue with them,” is what dozens of residents of the valley have said to me adding that the Taliban are sick in mind and the only language they understand is the language of force.
Analysis of what is happening in Swat should be encouraged but not at the cost of compromsing the reality there. (The News)
The writer is a research fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Research, University of Oslo, and a member of Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy. Email: email@example.com