Saturday, November 10, 2007

Letter from Pakistan

A socialist from Pakistan writes: I am writing to inform you that the Swat district where I live and work has seen a wave of terror and militancy over the last few weeks. The militants claiming to be the local Taliban have captured major towns in the scenic Swat valley and hoisted their flags on police stations and government buildings, while preparing to advance to bring other regions under their control.

The government has moved paramilitary forces to the region and have stationed them at key points. There have been clashes, shelling, bomb blasts and even suicide bombing on government forces resulting in heavy casualties. The local people demand the government to restore peace in the valley but the government has failed so far to do anything worthwhile. Recently the government imposed emergency, a kind of mini martial law in the whole country, blaming militancy and terrorism have increased and need to be brought under control, but people are very reluctant to believe the government would ever do something. Many argue the government and intelligence agencies are deliberately stoking the fire in the frontier region so as to extract more fund and time from its paymasters like the US for its war on terror. The local people are suffering. Mass migration from areas under the control of the taliban has started, people fearing they might get caught up in cross fire. Schools and colleges have been closed down for a month now, first under the threat from taliban and now because of the tense situation.

It is only a fortnight ago that the forces stationed in Swat and the militants who have been patrolling certain areas under their influence came eye to eye and started firing at each other. That has continued and their are sporadic clashes, shelling from helicopters, kidnappings, abductions of the security personnel and even beheading of those who are captured. FC men (frontier constabulary) in hundreds, unable to put up a fight or overpowered by the militants laid down their arms and surrendered to the talibans. The overall situation is very tense now and that the government has decided to launch a comprehensive military operation in order to flush out these militants from areas captured by them and a semblance of peace restored in the area.

Meanwhile all the NGOs, working for the uplift of the area have wound up their activities and left the area; projects incomplete and that there is a complete chaos all around. In such a situation people are now fleeing the area and have taken shelters down in the country. At the moment the militants have brought some 59 villages under their control and are now advancing to capture more. They have appointed administrators for each area and plan to set up their own shariat courts and execute justice. The worst sufferers are the students and their parents. This unnatural break in the studies of the students has disturbed them and they are suffering psychologically, fearing their schools might be bombed or the vehicles carrying them to schools might be hit by suicide bombers as the militants have threatened girls schools to close down or face bombing.


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