Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Swat FAQs by IRIN News

LAHORE, 24 February 2009 (IRIN) -

1. Where is Swat?

The mountain valley of Swat, covering 10,360 sqkm, is in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, about 170km north-east of the provincial capital, Peshawar, and about 160km north-west of Islamabad. With its clean river, open fields and forests, tourism has traditionally been the main source of revenue for many of its 1.8 million people, most of whom are ethnic Pashtuns.

2. History

In 327 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the area. Around the second century BC, the valley was occupied by Buddhists. From the eighth century onwards, Arabs started to exert pressure from the West and in 1001, the Afghan ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni, launched several invasions of the Indian sub-continent, conquering Swat.

The British colonial rulers of the Indian sub-continent from 1858 to 1947 recognised the state as one of many princely regions in India in 1926.

At Partition in 1947, when Pakistan broke away from India and independence was gained from British rule, the ruler of Swat ceded the state to Pakistan while retaining considerable autonomy. The princely state was abolished in 1969 by the Pakistan government.

3. Present status

Swat is an administrative district of NWFP. The capital is Saidu Sharif but the main city is Mingora, adjacent to Saidu.

4. Origins of the conflict

In 1992, Sufi Mohammad Khan established the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat, as a party seeking an Islamic order. The party rose to national prominence in 1995, when Sufi Mohammad Khan demanded the immediate imposition of Sharia, Islamic law. Violence followed as paramilitary forces began an operation against Khan.

After Khan's imprisonment in 2002, his son-in-law, Maulana Fazalullah, a former chairlift operator, took over the TNSM at 28. By 2007 he had aligned himself with the hardline Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), setting up dozens of illegal radio stations in Swat from which he preached his message of jihad (holy war).

5. Who are the main combatants?

Fighting in Swat began after Fazalullah in July 2007 ordered supporters to avenge a security force operation to clear militants out of a mosque in Islamabad. Since then, paramilitary forces and troops of the Pakistan army have been fighting militants led by Fazalullah. A brief truce reached in May 2008 brought relative peace but fighting resumed in August. Some 4,000 militants are said to be battling 12,000 troops

6. How many people have died?

There is no independent confirmation of the number of casualties. The military in January 2009 said 142 soldiers and paramilitary troops had died since the conflict resumed in August 2008. In 2007 the military confirmed the deaths of 230 civilians and 90 military personnel. At the end of 2007 an activist of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Swat said at least 400 civilians had died and 1,000 houses destroyed [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=75903].

7. How many people have been displaced?

According to rights groups and the media, approximately 800,000 of Swat's 1.8 million people have fled. With intensified fighting from February 2009, as the Pakistan government promised to retake control of the valley from the militants, more people are reported to have left. Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been set up in Mingora and other locations by the provincial government.

8. Why is there a threat to girls' education?

Fazalullah opposes education for girls. Since the conflict in Swat began, 170 to 200 schools for girls have been torched or bombed [http://www.dawn.com/2009/01/21/op.htm]. At the end of 2008, Fazalullah banned education for girls. Since then, 80,000 girls are still not in class as schools felt too threatened to re-open after the winter holiday.

Many had dropped out even before in fear of the militants, who in February said they would allow education for girls till Grade 5. The government has promised schools in Swat will re-open soon. Some schools have resumed classes after a truce. Women in Swat have also been ordered via radio stations run by militants to give up work and not to leave home. Men have been ordered to grow beards and wear prayer caps. Some have been killed for failing to comply with these orders.

9. What is the nature of peace efforts?

The NWFP government has agreed a truce with Sufi Muhammad Khan of the TNSM, whereby Sharia law would be imposed and both sides lay down arms. People in the Valley have welcomed the ceasefire. However, two previous accords along similar lines have broken down.

The abduction and killing of a prominent journalist days after the truce [http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Islamabad/18-Feb-2009/TV-journalist-Musa-Khan-Khel-killed-in-Swat] aggravates those fears. Many Pakistanis have criticised the deal, with HRCP warning it offers no guarantees to protect basic liberties and rights of groups, including women. Friction between different militant factions adds to the risks of the truce failing, though for the present it has enabled girls to return to school.

Sources: Newsline magazine; Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, State of Human Rights in Pakistan Annual Reports 1992-2007; Dawn; The News; The Daily Times; IRIN; Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2008.


© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis: http://www.irinnews.org

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My mother's education and career

My mother rarely went to school. Not because she did not want to, but because she was needed at home for household chores. And at that time, in the village, even to be enrolled in a school for a girl was a big achievement. So she was content with the arrangement. And she went (or was sent) to school on occasions make sure that her name is not struck off or to take the exams. Her father, a literate man and also a teacher helped her out sometimes at home. She was bright and very interested in whatever she was learning, so despite the irregularities and mostly relying on reading the books on her own, she was able to finish high school and get enrolled in college in Comilla. She was seventeen around that time. About the same time her family thought she is getting too old to get married, and hence a marriage was arranged and she was married off. Of course the marriage did not involve her consent. She had not even seen a picture of her would be husband. Her husband, my father was working in the West Pakistan and he left after the wedding, and my mother was able to continue with her college. Afterwards she moved with him to West Pakistan. She wanted to become a mother but for some reason she was unable to conceive for a while, so she felt she is wasting time at home and was suggested by a family friend to teach in a school. She was the first women in her family to do any work outside her home! She started working, but at the same time she continued reading course work material for bachelors exam. She took the exams just before I was born, but she was unable to pass English (a large majority of students in Pakistan fail in English subject in the BA exams). But then, she had me and there were no role models for her to push towards the value of higher education. She never tried to complete her degree, thinking that her job is only to pass time (not a career) and she is responsibility of her husband. Not her fault. That is how most women think in our country even now a days. So, her education and career both were incidental, not necessary. But, when she became a widow at the age of 31, with 3 kids, no savings or property, and not very helpful in-laws, she realized that whatever job she started as a time pass, is now the only way to survive, but a yoke on her neck which could not take off even when she was dying!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Seems like a good film from Pakistan.

IRIN Timeline on Swat turbulance

PAKISTAN: Timeline on Swat Valley turbulence

LAHORE, 11 February 2009 (IRIN) - Understanding the humanitarian situation in turbulent Swat Valley, some 160km from Islamabad in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), requires some knowledge of the political background to the current tensions and violence.

In 1995 radical clerical leader Sufi Muhammad Khan, leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in Swat Valley, demanded imposition of Islamic law in the area. Violence followed as the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, began an operation against Khan. Tourism, a major source of income, was disrupted and 13 militants died in fighting.

After the operation, the NWFP government agreed to enforce Shariah law in Malakand Division (in Swat District). TNSM's main demand - the replacement of regular courts with Islamic courts - was partially met, but arguments over the peace deal led to sporadic violence.

In 2001 Sufi Muhammad Khan took a force of some 10,000 people from Swat and the tribal areas to fight against US forces invading Afghanistan. Nearly 3,000 were killed, while others were jailed in Afghanistan or sent back to Pakistan, including Sufi Muhammad Khan, who was imprisoned. The TNSM was banned by the government.

In 2002 Sufi Muhammad Khan's son-in-law, the firebrand cleric Maulana Fazalullah, emerged as a force in Swat and set up his headquarters at Imam Dehri. Linked to the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he stepped up efforts to impose hardline Islam.

In January 2003 incidents of violence began to increase in Swat. The Afghan writer Fazal Wahab, whose work was viewed as being critical of Osama bin-Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan, was shot dead in Swat by unidentified assailants.

Between 2004 and 2007 Maulana Fazalullah set up at least 30 illegal FM radio stations to get his message across. Girls' education and any active role for women in society was opposed. Several schools, music shops and barbers' businesses were attacked.


July 2007 - Violence in Swat increases after Fazalullah urges his followers to launch 'jihad' (holy war) to avenge an operation carried out by the Pakistan military against the Lal Masjid (mosque) in Islamabad, where clerical leaders were accused by the government of harbouring "terrorists".

4 July 2007 - Four civilians are killed and two police wounded by a roadside bomb. In a separate incident a policemen is killed and four others injured in a rocket attack on a police station in the Matta area of Swat District.

12 July 2007 - A suicide bomber kills three police.

13 July 2007 - President Pervez Musharraf approves a plan to deploy paramilitary forces in Swat to crush growing militancy. Troops are positioned in Swat.

15 July 2007 - At least 13 paramilitary personnel and six civilians, including three children, are killed and more than 50 people injured at Matta in Swat District when two suicide bombers ram two cars packed with explosives into an army convoy.

August 2007 - NGOs and international humanitarian organisations are asked by the administration to leave Swat after threats by militants. Attacks on several girls' schools are reported.

30 August 2007 - Seven security forces' personnel are killed as militants attack a checkpoint in Swat. Owners of video centres and barber's shops receive threatening letters.

21 September 2007 - Maulana Fazalullah urged his supporters to attack government officials after a demand to release three militants held after a hotel bombing incident was rejected by the authorities.

October 2007 - Fazalullah sets up his own Islamic courts.

21 October 2007 - Eighteen soldiers and two civilians die and 35 others, including nine civilians, are injured in a bomb blast aimed at a vehicle carrying paramilitary personnel at Nawan Killi, about 1km from Swat city.

26-29 October 2007 - Fierce clashes erupt between troops and militants in Swat, leaving at least 29 dead. Thirteen security personnel are executed by militants.

1-2 November 2007 - Fighting resumes after a brief ceasefire. 60-70 people die after a clash in Khwazakhela town; 48 troops who surrendered to militants are paraded in public.

3-6 November 2007: Militants extend their hold over Swat, capturing key towns including Madyan and Kalam.

November 2007: The Pakistan military intensifies its operation in Swat. Helicopter gunships pound villages. Thousands flee the valley. There are conflicting accounts of casualties, but dozens are feared dead.

28 November - 6 December 2007: Security forces say militants have been forced out of Swat and many key leaders arrested. Key centres such as Imam Dehri are seized. Hundreds are feared dead in the operation; 500,000 of Swat's 1.8 million people are reported to have fled.

23 December 2007 - Fourteen die in a suicide attack on a military convoy near Mingora, Swat's main city. Sporadic violence continues in Swat, including attacks on shops, schools and government buildings.


January 2008 - Low-level violence between troops and militants continues in Swat.

29 February 2008 - Forty killed and more than 75 wounded when a suicide bomber targets the funeral of a police officer in Mingora.

1 March 2008: Militants behead a 22-year-old man accused of passing on information to the security forces.

April 2008: NWFP government launches a fresh peace process, setting up a committee to initiate dialogue with different groups of militants. Militant leaders, including Fazalullah, re-enter Swat. Maulana Sufi Muhammad Khan of the banned TNSM is released.

21 May 2008 - Taliban militants operating under Fazalullah in Swat District sign a 16-point peace agreement with the NWFP government and agree to disband their militia; they also denounce suicide attacks and stop attacks on the security forces and government buildings.

June-July 2008 - Attacks on schools and other buildings continue in Swat. Militants say the government refused to keep its part of the peace deal by retaining troops. At least 50 girls' schools are reported to have been attacked by militants in 2008. Thousands of girls quit school, fearing for their safety.

27-30 July 2008 - Fierce clashes erupt again, after incidents involving the killing of military personnel.

August-December 2008 - The military moves tanks, heavy artillery and helicopters into Swat to combat militants. Hundreds are reported killed in heavy clashes. Reports of atrocities by militants increase - including the killing of women who decline to stop work and public beheadings of those accused of spying. Human rights activists say 60 percent of Swat's 1.8 million people have fled. Thousands of homes are reported to have been damaged and 150 schools destroyed.

December 2008: Press reports say the militants control 75 percent of Swat. Fazalullah announces a ban on education for girls.

29 January 2009: Pakistan's government announces a new strategy to combat militancy in Swat and pledges to ensure girls resume schooling. Schools for girls remain closed in Swat after the winter break leaving 80,000 girls out of school. Militants are reported to have seized control of almost all of Swat.

31 January 2009: Fazalullah, leader of the TTP in Swat, says he will relax the ban on education to allow girls to attend school up to grade 5. The ban had been met by a nationwide outcry.

February 2009: Renewed military offensives are reported against militants as the Pakistan Army pledges to regain control of Swat. Mingora said to be under government control. Fierce fighting continues and more people flee.

(Sources: Dawn, The News, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan State of Human Rights in Pakistan annual reports, and the South Asian Terrorism Portal, run by the Institute of Conflict Management, New Delhi)


© IRIN. All rights reserved. More humanitarian news and analysis: http://www.irinnews.org

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Shalamar Gardens

Shalamar Gardens
Originally uploaded by BeeCay

Pakistan known mainly for its problems with terrorism is home to several majestic pieces of architecture!!! This is just one...