Pakhtunkhwa Times

Canadian House of Common discussed the Swat-Pakistan issue

Posted in Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, Pashtun, PPF Canada, Swat by ppfcanada on March 22, 2009

Pakistan Falters Against Taliban In Swat Valley

Posted in Swat by ppfcanada on January 28, 2009

Pakistan Falters Against Taliban In Swat Valley

More than 180 Educational Institutions Destroyed in Swat
By Shaheen Buneri
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — In October 2007, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf deployed more than 25,000 security forces to Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan to fight against Taliban militants under the command of Maulana Fazlullah and restore peace to the picturesque valley.

At the time, military commanders claimed that the whole mountainous region would be cleared of all militants within two weeks. The locals hoped the heavy deployment of security forces would be instrumental in defeating the rising tide of militancy that increasingly threatened their lives and property.

Fifteen months later, the inhabitants of Swat valley are witnessing a completely different scenario: Bearded militants, wearing camouflage outfits and carrying heavy machine guns, have destroyed schools and bridges, and openly administered “Islamic” punishments to so-called “U.S. spies” and government sympathizers, in broad daylight in the main square of Mingora, Swat District’s main town.

Officials claim that Fazlullah’s militants have destroyed more than 170 girls’ and boys’ schools in the area. The conflict has displaced half a million people out of the valley’s 1.7 million inhabitants.

Sher Ali Khan, a government employee and resident of Mingora, says government security forces have failed to arrest or kill any important militant commanders, and that the majority of people killed in the operation have been civilians. “More than 1,200 civilians, mainly children and women have been killed so far,” he told World Politics Review.

Military sources deny reports that the Taliban now control 90 percent of Swat Valley, and say that the military action will continue until the government’s authority is restored in the region.

But Ret. Brig. Mehmod Shah, a former administrator in Pakistan’s tribal areas, believes that the military cannot restore peace without the visible support of Pakistan’s civilian government.

“The President of the United States can visit Iraq and Afghanistan to raise the spirit of his soldiers, but you have not seen a political leader or a government minister who has gone to Swat and supported the military commanders fighting the Taliban,” he added.

The differences between civilian leaders and military commanders over the the strategy used in the operation further aggravates the situation. North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Minister for Information Mian Iftikhar Hussain recently assured media in Peshawar that the Pakistani army was in control of the situation in Swat, although he added that if it failed people had no other choice but to pray to God.

A number of Swat residents interviewed say that when Maulana Fazlullah started his campaign through his pirated FM radio station in 2006, the government completely ignored his activities and provided him the time and space needed to become a militant commander.

“I fail to understand who brought Fazlullah to Swat and who provided his militants with weapons to play havoc with our lives? Now he is the commander of his own army with weapons, vehicles and food supplies,” says Kabir Shah, who migrated to Peshawar when security forces shelled his village close to Mingora. He added that Pakistan’s political leadership is corrupt and directionless, while the military establishment is lacking both vision and a counterterrorism strategy.

Political analysts believe that if the Taliban are not defeated in Swat, they might spread to other settled districts of the North-West Frontier Province. Last month, Fazlullah’s militants targeted a boys school in neighboring Buner district with a suicide bomb that killed 46 people, including 15 children.

“Swat is a test case for the country’s military and political administration. It’s high time to know the real reasons behind the failure of military action in Swat and to devise a comprehensive strategy to fight terror in all its manifestations. If you lose Swat it means that you lost the whole of Northwest Pakistan,” says Syed Irfan Ashraf, a Peshawar-based political analyst.

Although the current wave of violence recalls the lawless tribal areas close to the Pakistan-Afghan border, Swat is located in a settled area of the North-West Frontier Province. Often called the “Switzerland of the East” because of its geography, it is a prime tourist destination and a major social and cultural center for the whole region. Its pristine beauty, snowcapped mountains, rivers and rare Bhuddhist archeological sites are known all over the world. It has not historically been an area where fundamentalist religious thought prevailed.

Shaheen Buneri is a TV and online journalist based in Peshawar Pakistan.

Courtesy: World Politics Review

Taliban rule the roost in Swat through FM radio

Posted in FM Radio, Swat by ppfcanada on January 21, 2009



Taliban rule the roost in Swat through FM radio
Updated at
Monday, January 05, 2009

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

PESHAWAR: Most people in Swat are becoming regular listeners of the FM radio channel run by the Maulana Fazlullah-led Swati Taliban as they want to know about new threats or decrees issued by the militants.

The nighttime broadcasts are also heard in certain areas outside Swat district. This has enabled the Taliban to spread their influence in parts of Upper Dir and Lower Dir districts and Malakand Agency and order people around in those places.

On Sunday, a man named Karimullah in Ouch Gharbi village near Chakdarra in Lower Dir district was quoted as saying in a newspaper report that he has stopped handing out “Taweez” or amulets to the needy following a warning given to him by Maulana Fazlullah’s deputy Maulana Shah Dauran on the FM radio. Henceforth, Karimullah said he would do farming to earn his livelihood and never indulge in any ‘un-Islamic’ act.

At 8 pm every night, Maulana Shah Dauran begins his daily broadcasts by reciting the holy Quran with translation and interpretation in Pashto. For the next two to two-and-a-half hours, he speaks on a variety of topics, making announcements about Swat Taliban Shura decisions, providing information about the day’s events and militants’ attacks, and issuing threats to all those violating Taliban decrees.

Shah Dauran, who belongs to Qambar village near Swat’s biggest city, Mingora, has been doing his nightly radio show now for several months. He is a regular and has seldom missed his show. He is known to use harsh language against political opponents, government functionaries and those adjudged as criminals by him and Taliban Shura. The names of those in power are mentioned in a derisive manner and fun is made of some of their actions and pronouncements.

The FM radio is obviously illegal but it continues to operate every night. Sometimes, the authorities try to block its broadcasts but the radio is back on air after a while. Shah Dauran attributes this to Allah’s help for Taliban and tells his listeners that their FM radio broadcasts cannot be blocked as alternate arrangements were in place to continue broadcasting.

Shah Dauran recently announced that his voice on the FM radio could be heard in Karo Darra and Nihag Darra, two valleys in Upper Dir district, in Chakdarra in Lower Dir, and in most of Malakand Agency.

His leader Maulana Fazlullah broadcasts his show on another FM radio channel that is heard around the same time every night in upper parts of Swat including Matta, Khwazakhela, Madyan, Bahrain and Kalam. Unlike Shah Dauran’s harsh tone, Fazlullah is said to be polite in his broadcasts.

The 33-year-old Fazlullah, it may be added, came to be known as Mullah radio when he started out as a preacher initially a few years ago and then politicised his agenda. The use of the FM radio gave him recognition and made him an influential cleric in Swat. Subsequently, he raised an armed force and then took on the government.

Seeking donations for their group and its projects, including the huge mosque and madrassa built in Fazlullah’s village, Mamdheri, and announcing the names or village of donors had been an important segment of the programming done by his FM radio in the past. This practice has continued in the broadcasts made by the two FM Radio channels but now the donors’ names aren’t announced. Only the total figure of donations that Taliban claim residents of a certain village have made are announced and the donors are praised for contributing to a worthy cause.

Often, Shah Dauran mentions that complaints have been received about some government employee not performing his duty or civic services being inadequate. He mentions the names of these employees and warns them to mend their ways. The next day those employees strive to perform their work efficiently and some approach Taliban commanders to clarify their position.

Such is the fear of the Swati Taliban that persons blamed on the FM Radio for selling drugs or liquor hasten to give up the business or rush to acquaintances having links with Taliban to help them clear their name. Policemen have been quitting jobs and placing advertisements in local newspapers in Swat to announce their decision. Those handing out amulets or doing other jobs declared un-Islamic by Taliban also make it a point to publicly abandon their profession and seek forgiveness.

Shah Dauran also uses the radio to claim responsibility for Taliban attacks. On December 28, he claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed 44 people, all civilians except two policemen and a government employee, at a polling station in Shalbandai village in Buner district. On another occasion, he proudly announced that Taliban had killed a female dancer, Shabana, in Mingora. Recently, he announced that anyone in Swat found using the new coins carrying Benazir Bhutto’s image would be punished.

Swatis who listen to Shah Dauran’s broadcasts said they do so because they never know their names or those of their family members may be announced for being in violation of some Taliban decree. “To survive in Taliban-ruled Swat, we need to know about decisions being made by the Taliban Shura,” argued a man who for obvious reasons requested anonymity.

Desperate moves on to secure Swat — the lost valley

Posted in ANP, Army role, Swat by ppfcanada on January 21, 2009

Thursday, 15 January 2009
Desperate moves on to secure Swat — the lost valley
By Ismail Khan

SWAT, known for its green meadows, gushing river and snow-capped
mountains, has unfortunately come to relive its historic name, Suvastu
— the white serpent — whose tenacity and viciousness has stung the
political and military leadership so badly that both are now looking
for new ways to put a lid on the monster of growing bloodshed and
reclaim its fast-shrinking territory.

The idyllic valley has gone really bad, its image distorted beyond
recognition. Pakistan’s most popular tourist destination is now
haunted by death and fear; few officials now dare to go and serve

Nearly 800 policemen — half of the total sanctioned strength of police
in Swat, have either deserted or proceeded on long leave on one
pretext or the other.

Only one of the 600 police recruits trained by the military at the
Punjab Regimental Centre in Mardan, volunteered to go and serve, while
the others plainly refused to head to what is now being called the
‘valley of death’.

The second phase of the military operation Rah-i-Haq in July last to
regain control of the northern district of the North-West Frontier
Province appears to have made little headway.

Many analysts agree that the state writ has shrunk from Swat’s
5337square kilometre area to the limits of its regional headquarters
of Mingora — a city of 36 square kilometres.

Indeed, local residents say militants routinely carry out patrolling
in Mingora, where its central square, the Green Chowk, came to be
known as ‘Chowk Zebahkhana’ or the slaughter square.

Just last month, militants dumped 27 bodies with a warning not to
remove the corpses before 11 am. This coupled with sniper attacks
forced the traffic cops to refuse duty in the city centre, prompting
the military to impose a night curfew in the city, whose population
has swelled in recent months for relative security.

Targeted killings have increased and those showing defiance were made
examples for others. Pir Samiullah, who had taken on the militants,
was killed and his body hung from a pole before it was removed and

Pir’s death and the government’s inability and helplessness to respond
in real-time and support him, is perhaps the last nail in the coffin.
Officials acknowledge that encouraging and organizing popular support
against the militants now is a pipe dream.

Civilian deaths

Contributing further to the already grim scenario is the growing
negative public perception of the military operation that they say has
killed more civilians than militants.

This public perception has been reinforced by rising civilian
casualties, shrinking state authority, militants’ ability to strike
anywhere and any time and military’s over-reliance on long-range
artillery than putting boots on the ground.

No credible data is available to estimate the number of civilian
casualties in the seven-month-old operation due to police absence in
most militant-controlled areas and therefore, the resultant lack of
reporting. But police officials say the figure ran in hundreds.

The damage caused to property and infrastructure since the emergence
of militancy in Swat has been evaluated at Rs3 billion, according to a
senior government official, as militants blow up bridges and schools.
The number of schools blown up or torched now stands at 181 – the
highest perhaps in any insurgency anywhere in the world in an area as
small as Swat.

The battle for the airwaves in Swat has taken a new turn. Radical
cleric Maulana Fazlullah is back on the air but even his radio has
proved to be too weak against his lieutenant Shah Doran whose
broadcastes are heard far and wide, thanks to a 500 KV transmitter to
defeat government’s efforts to jam his sermons.

The government now plans to overcome the problem by setting up a one
megawatt transmitter that, it believes, would effectively silence the
militant radio propaganda.

With state authority on the wane in Swat, relationship between the
political and military leadership also took a sharp plunge.

Frustration is mounting within the ANP. On December 18, at a
parliamentary party meeting at the chief minister’s house, seven of
its lawmakers from Swat threatened to resign. “They were very
depressed,” said a senior party leader present in the meeting.

Predictably, the issue came up again for discussion at a cabinet
meeting the following day, followed by public criticism by Information
Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain that the government was “not satisfied
with the military operation”.

Not a child’s play

An interview to a private television channel by senior party leader
Hashim Babar accusing the security establishment of fomenting
militancy, rubbed more salt into the wounds, sources within the ANP
and security establishment acknowledge.

“The military was not happy,” a party official admitted. The ANP MPA
from Swat, Mr Ayub Ashari, was called and given a piece of mind, as
one official put it: “We have lost 142 men in Swat since July last.
This is not child’s play. This is no friendly match,” a visibly angry
security official said.

The ANP leaders defend their public statements and one of whom said:
“When you see that the operation is not effective and is going on and
on, causing more collateral damage, then how can you remain

“The militants have taken over Fata and now they want to take over the
province. It’s clear. So should we remain silent and play second
fiddle?” he asked. “We have been constrained to re-think our support
to the military operation,” he said.

Security officials say that the political leadership at the helm was
also to blame for failing to put in place a civil administration that
responds to public needs and generate public support.

“We should have had the back-up support from the police and the civil
administration which is not there. This has put us on the back foot,”
the security official said.

“It’s a tough area and when you operate in an area where you don’t
know who the enemy is and who your friends are, it makes things a lot
more difficult,” he said.

But before things could reach breaking point, Army Chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kiyani intervened. On December 25, in a meeting with the army
chief, the political leadership agreed to overcome its differences
with the military high command and devise a new strategy.

Shariah law

But that may leave another issue unaddressed. Both sides are piqued
that the federal government was also dragging its feet on the
amendments proposed in the so-called Shariah regulation promulgated in

The amendments, part of the May 2008 agreement with the militants in
Swat, say the ANP leaders are central to helping restore peace in
Malakand Provincially-Administered Tribal Area, of which Swat is a

President Asif Zardari returned the summary containing the proposed
amendments with observations.

“Being head of a secular liberal party, he is worried that introducing
Shariah in Malakand would harm his international image,” they said.

“What we are trying to do is to convince him that we are not enacting
a new law. These are amendments to a law that already exists,”
explained the senior ANP leader.

The new strategy, however, has already been put in motion. While the
NWFP government awaits Mr Zardari’s approval to the amendments, it is
working on a public statement that would commit the government to
introduce Islamic judicial system in Malakand.

The statement – a suggestion by octogenarian Sufi Muhammad – is still
in the works and does not include a time-frame. In return, the head of
the banned Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi, has offered to leave
his protest camp at Timergarah in native Dir and go to Swat to
convince the militants to lay down their arms.

“I am an old man. I know I may be killed in the process but it’s worth
the sacrifice,” a source privy to behind-the-scene negotiations quoted
him as saying.

The security official concurred. “Whether the government introduces
the amendments or issues a public statement, it would deny the
militants the moral high ground of fighting for Shariah.”

Simultaneously, the government is also working, albeit quietly, to
incorporate some of Sufi Muhammad’s suggestions in the proposed
amendments to make it more acceptable to him and strengthen his hands
vis-à-vis the militants.

New strategy

The military, meanwhile, has begun to implement the new strategy since
last week which, it says, would focus more on consolidating and
securing the main supply routes and urban and rural centres “by
putting more boots on the ground.”

Presently, it has four brigades in Swat including one from Rawalpindi
overseen by a GOC (General Officer Commanding). “We have made some
adjustments and we should be okay with it,” the official said.

To begin with, the military is gearing up to secure Mingora and its

For its part, the government has agreed to depute three MPAs from Swat
to set up a secured camp office in Mingora to touch base with their
electorate and garner the essential public support.

But analysts say that while there has to be a more concerted and
focussed military operation to overcome the militancy, the government
too needs to devise a back-up socio-economic development plan to put
in place once an area is cleared and returned to the civil

“This is a fight to defend a state system. There is growing cynicism
amongst the people in Swat whose feeling of helplessness has been
compounded by the state to provide security and social service
delivery. This is where we all have to act, the sooner the better. The
blame-game is not going to take us anywhere,” a senior official said.