Taliban and the people of Swat
By Rahimullah Yusufzai
Saturday, January 17, 2009
The Afghan Taliban banned girls' education and many among them now regret the decision. The Pakistani Taliban in Swat have done the same thing and one day they too would realize that this was something wrong. But it would be late by then and neither regrets nor remorse would absolve them of the responsibility of keeping thousands of girls illiterate and rendering jobless a large number of female teachers and other employees.
The headstrong leadership of the Maulana Fazlullah-led Swati Taliban has even refused to listen to the advice of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose spokesman Maulvi Omar urged it to review the decision. Though the TTP founder Baitullah Mahsud hasn't commented on the issue and his organization is yet to give a clear directive on girls' education to its Swat chapter, the fact that many schools for females continue to function in his native South Waziristan and in neighbouring North Waziristan show that this isn't the policy of Pakistani Taliban to lock out educational institutions meant for girls. Still the absence of a proper policy guideline on girls' education by the TTP emboldened the Swati Taliban to go ahead with the decision to close all schools and colleges for females by January 15. As Muslim Khan, the spokesman for the Taliban in Swat pointed out, the TTP hadn't formally asked them to cancel the decision and, therefore, they would go ahead with its implementation.
It is obvious that the TTP isn't always a disciplined organization. Militants from various persuasions and places make up the TTP, which is an umbrella organization for radical Taliban groups having their own local and specific agendas. In the past also, the TTP failed to discipline its Mohmand Agency chapter and its commander, Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid, despite announcing that he would be made accountable for fighting a rival group of Salafi militants and killing its head Shah Khalid along with scores of his fighters. The TTP did nothing to stop the bombing of some girls' schools in Darra Adamkhel, another stronghold of a radical band of Taliban like those in Swat. The TTP also remained unmoved when the Taliban in Bajaur occupied several girls' schools and other government buildings and set up madressahs or their Shariah courts there.
The Swati Taliban are a different breed compared to the other militants. Many among them haven't studied in madressahs, or Islamic schools, and even their leader Maulana Fazlullah was unable to complete his religious education. Members of jehadi groups are also to be found among the Taliban in Swat. Commoners including tenants have joined Taliban ranks and some are driven by an urge to harm the landowning families in Swat. Others are seeking revenge against the government, its security forces and all those Swatis who have backed the military operations in the once peaceful valley. The authorities and many Swatis also claim that criminals have become part of the Taliban and are using the militants' power to pursue their activities.
That the Swati Taliban are the most dangerous and intolerant among the lot is evident from some of their actions. Besides bombing and destroying 172 schools, including 122 for girls and 50 for boys, they are in occupation of another five educational institutions for use as their bases. By the way, education is no longer a priority even for the government and the security forces in Swat where death and destruction is now a way of life. Due to lack of accommodation, the security forces are also occupying 18 schools where 7,039 male and female students used to study and using these places as their barracks. It is pertinent to recall that the Swat state had one of the best educational outreach and facilities during the progressive rule of the Wali of Swat. Roadside schools, clinics and police posts, nicely-built and painted yellow, are still a familiar sight in the Swat valley. It was, therefore, hardly surprising that educationists from Swat earned name and reached the highest offices in the administrative set-up of the education department in NWFP.
The list of Taliban excesses is long and full of misery. Security forces too have killed an unacceptable number of civilians during military action and displaced a large number of families. The people of Swat are often critical of both the Taliban and the security forces and it is not uncommon to find them blaming them in equal measure for their unending plight. But the Taliban due to their claim to be fighting for Shariah must be judged by the high standards of Islamic principles. Some of their actions are clearly un-Islamic. The Taliban gave up the peaceful struggle for enforcement of Shariah that was being waged earlier by Maulana Sufi Mohammad's black-turbaned Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM) and resorted to the use of force to accomplish their goal. Their Shariah mission has now been pushed into the background due to the unabated violence that has engulfed Swat in recent years.
The Taliban have been destroying or occupying government buildings and blowing up bridges, basic health units and hotels, including the one that looked majestic with clouds often swirling around it at the now deserted Malam Jabba skiing and chairlift resort. Electricity and gas installations have been bombed and road blockades and checkpoints set up to add to the misery of the people. Beheadings of personnel of security forces and police and political rivals is common. Bodies of people slain overnight are dumped in the morning by the roadside everywhere in Swat or at the Greens Chowk, nowadays commonly referred to as "Khooni Chowk" (bloody square), in Mingora city. Anyone found in violation of the Taliban code are warned in the nightly FM Radio show by Maulana Shah Dauran to behave or face the consequences. None can dare to defy the militants and those who move out of Swat live in fear. And probably for the first time in
In such circumstances, it would be suicidal for the teachers or students to keep the girls' schools and colleges open. Despite assurances of security by the Swat administration and the government, nobody is convinced that it would be safe to send girls to school and let the female teachers, or their male counterparts, to continue teaching. Most of the government-run educational institutions for females were already closed due to the fear of the militants. The privately-managed schools and colleges too had made adjustments by halting co-education at the few institutions where it was still in practice, ordering the female students and teachers to observe purdah and come veiled and changing part of the curriculum with greater stress on religious education. But the Taliban wanted more as they gained power and finally on December 24 Maulana Shah Dauran made the dreaded announcement that girls' education was being outlawed from January 15. Pleas by the owners and teachers of private schools and many parents brought a slight relaxation in the Taliban stand as they allowed girls to attend school until grade four. It seems they were following the policy adopted by the Afghan Taliban, who during their rule in
There is no doubt that the ban on girls' education deprived the Afghan Taliban the support of many Afghans and forced Muslims elsewhere in the world to stop backing them. Other factors too drained backing for the Afghan Taliban but the outlawing of female education annoyed families who wanted their women to become literate and become useful members of the society. The ban portrayed the Taliban as a retrogressive force that wanted to deprive women of enlightenment and keep them in bondage. Though the Afghan Taliban subsequently allowed girls to receive nursing and medical education on a limited scale and promised to reopen girls' schools and colleges once the country's civil war and the security situation improved, few believed their promises.
Due to their actions, the support for Swati Taliban has dwindled. They are living in a make-believe world and are still claiming to enjoy popular support. During visits to their strongholds in Shawar and other places in the Matta area, one found people criticizing them during private conversation. Those feigning to support largely do so out of fear or some vested interest. By making the people of Swat suffer, the Taliban have made their cause unpopular. The ban on girls' education is one more step toward taking away whatever little support the Swati Taliban still enjoyed.
The writer is resident editor of The News in
80,000 female students bear brunt of Taliban ban in Swat
Saturday, January 17, 2009
* Govt, private schools unlikely to reopen after winter vacations
* 8,000 female teachers go unemployed after closure
By Saleem Athar
MINGORA: Government and private schools across Swat are unlikely to reopen when the winter vacations end after a Taliban deadline expired on Thursday – with around 80,000 female students facing a year without classes.
Last month, the Taliban threatened to kill any girl attending classes after January 15, and to blow up any schools where girls are enrolled.
The expiry of the deadline – which did not apply to girls below grade five – has been followed by the closure of around 400 schools in Swat, leaving the education of around 80,000 female students and the careers of about 8,000 female teachers in jeopardy.
Residents are complaining that the government has not responded to the situation. They say the closure of schools has left some parents with no option but to migrate, but the majority cannot afford such a move.
District education officials also said the government had not yet come up with a solution.
The district administration had asked private schools to continue classes, but the request has been turned down. A spokesman for an association of private schools told AFP the resumption of classes was in doubt. “The government has assured us it will provide security, but it is a question of the lives of the students ... we cannot take a risk.” The Swat Taliban have already destroyed 122 girls’ schools.
Pakistani government inks peace deal with Swat Taliban
By BILL ROGGIOMay 21, 2008 6:05 PM
The Pakistani government has signed another peace agreement with the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier province. After striking a deal with a banned radical Taliban outfit in the Bajaur region, a peace agreement has been signed with Mullah Fazlullah's Taliban faction in the settled districts of Swat and Malakand.
The peace deal in Swat and Malakand comes after several rounds of negotiations. A 15-point agreement was signed with representatives of the
• Sharia law would be imposed in the Swat and Malakand districts;
• The Pakistani Army will gradually withdraw security forces from the region;
• The government and the Taliban would exchange prisoners;
• The Taliban would recognize the writ of the government and cooperate with security forces;
• The Taliban would halt attacks on barber and music shops;
• The Taliban cannot display weapons in public;
• The Taliban would turn in heavy weapons (rockets, mortars);
• The Taliban cannot operate training camps;
• The Taliban would denounce suicide attacks;
• A ban would be placed on raising private militias;
• The Taliban will cooperate with the government to vaccinate children against diseases like polio;
• Fazlullah's madrassa, the Imam Dherai, would be turned into an Islamic university;
• Only licensed FM radio stations would be allowed to operate in the region;
• The Taliban would allow women to "perform their duties at the work place without any fear."
Just yesterday, the government denied that security forces would be withdrawn from Swat and other Taliban hotspots such as
Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is de facto control; yellow is under threat.
The Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with Fazlullah in May 2007 with similar terms. The terms of the nine-point peace deal signed in 2007 required Fazlullah to support the polio vaccination campaign and education for girls, as well as government efforts to establish law and order. He also agreed to shut down training facilities for terrorists, stop manufacturing weapons, and support the district administration in any operation against anti-state elements. Fazlullah's followers were also to stop carrying weapons in the open. In return, Fazlullah was permitted to continue broadcasting his illegal FM radio programs and the government dropped criminal cases lodged against him.
The Taliban promptly disobeyed the terms of the deal, and began to overrun police stations and enforce sharia law in the district. The Taliban used the government's siege and assault on the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, as their reason to violate the peace agreement. But Fazlullah and his fighters began violating the agreement long before the Red Mosque incident.
Fazlullah's forces overran much of Swat and neighboring Shangla. The government launched an operation to dislodge the Taliban from Swat in November and vowed to oust them by December. But the military has fought a grinding campaign that has failed to defeat the Taliban. The Pakistani security forces operating in the small district lost 195 soldiers, policemen, and Frontier Constabulary paramilitaries during a year of fighting.
Fazlullah is the son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the leader of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM - the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law). He had close links with the administration of the Lal Masjid. Fazlullah has successfully organized anti-polio and anti-girls schools campaigns throughout the region. The Swat region has been a safe haven and training ground for the Pakistani Taliban.
The TNSM is known as the "Pakistani Taliban" and is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent over 10,000 fighters into
The Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with the TNSM on April 21. The government freed Sufi Mohammed. The government is also close to signing a peace deal with Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban behind a brutal suicide and conventional military campaign in the tribal areas and in greater
The terms of Swat and TNSM peace deals and the proposed