By Zubair Torwali
The soldiers on duty humiliate the people at each check post. Imagine how one might feel when he is checked forty times within 40 miles in your own country; and to add to it, deemed a terrorist. Swat was once a paradise; but now living in hell hardly equals living in Swat
Two men at the New York Times deserve our attention for the brave but objective reporting on certain issues facing Pakistan and Afghanistan. I often follow Nicholas D. Kristof in New York Times and on Facebook. I recently read his article on the state of education in Pakistan published in the Bangkok Post. A few days back I read his work on the education in Afghanistan. The other guy, Adam B. Ellick has recently (on 12 November) published a report on the pathetic situation of education in Swat, especially after the insurgency and its counter military operation. Hailing from the once beautiful Swat Valley, now twice blighted by the militancy and the floods; I am witness of an even graver situation in the valley. As Adam has reported the damage inculcated either by the militants or in the operation against them is yet to be undone. Amid this mess the future of many young Swatis is at stake.
In Swat there were over 2,000 schools that both the wars for-and-on terror, have destroyed. The wars have destroyed the dignity of the Swatis, their morale, livelihood, image and above all a future or even a hope for it.
When Swat was virtually handed over to the militants, the people of Swat waited for a messiah. At last the controversial messiah came in the guise of the military. The people provided them a level playing field so that they might take the militants head on. The largest and the worst exodus from Swat in the beginning of the summer of 2009 was actually a desperate attempt by the people to put things back to the normal. The military launched an operation in Swat and they were welcomed as saviours despite military’s phony patronage of Taliban. The military was received by the people with awe and praise. I still remember the zealous slogans of ‘Long Live Pak Army’ by the people in Swat. The military offensive against the militants was also very much hailed by the international community. Thus a year passed and Swat was declared clear of militants. They even celebrated their victory over the militancy last summer, just a couple of days before the worst floods in the valley.
It seems there was little reason for the natives to celebrate with the Pakistan Army as this was no solution to the actual problem.
A long, persistent and obsessive involvement of the military in the civil affairs of the people creates resentment. The soldiers on duty humiliate the people at each check post. Imagine how one might feel when he is checked forty times within 40 miles in your own country; and to add to it, deemed a terrorist. Furthermore, the people are forced to work on the roads and bridges for which the military and public administration gets plenty of money. I myself was rebuked by rude soldiers who do not belong to my valley. Swat was once a paradise; but now living in hell hardly equals living in Swat.
I discern a strong resentment in Swat. I fear a replica of East Pakistan here. I fear one day the people will rise against the corruption, mishandling, humiliation, forced labour and pressure for land acquisition in Swat. Consequently, many Swatis will be maimed and killed for reasons such as ‘treason’ and ‘treacheries’. There will be more militancy based on religion; and on liberation.
In addition to the affliction of the war the Swatis were inflicted by nature in the form of floods. Response to the floods by the state of Pakistan was not different from its response to the militancy. Here, too, the mercenary concerns prevailed over all other concerns. In Swat the INGOs and the USA responded in time; and there were times when the perception of people of Swat about the USA and INGOS changed. The disaster could be converted into opportunity but was not availed. Mere wailing for more funds did not work with an unpopular state and its institutions.
Pakistani rulers do not learn any lesson from either history or their past experiences. This time the same would be repeated in Swat as it was done four decades back in East Pakistan.
But we can hope that it is not too late. The military in Swat and elsewhere must review its policy and try an effective coordination with the civilian set-up after abandoning the obsolete superiority complex. The security apparatus of Pakistan needs an indigenous shift in its security paradigm. Maybe abandoning the covert wars policy helps Pakistan out of the mess. Then there will be no need of ‘do more’ and ‘we need more’ strategic fallacies. It seems like an endless war that the US shirks owning, while Pakistan squeezes money from it. The people of the two nations suffer at the hands of this war, in Pakistan they suffer lives and in the USA they pay for a war never meant to be fought!
The writer is based in Bahrain, Swat and belongs to Torwali tribe of Dardic origin. He writes for different national dailies of the country. He is a coordinator of an independent organization IBT, Centre for Education and Development. He believes in liberal and secular values and studied English literature and Political Science from University of Peshawar.