There is growing anger at the rise in militant activity in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. What is becoming evident to a number of Pakistanis is that the control of the Valley is gradually going into the hands of the Taliban militia.
This week, the main town of the Valley, Mingora, was taken over in parts by the Taliban militia and the general bus stand of the town was occupied by them.
Till now the tactics of the Taliban have been more of hit and run but as the situation evolves, their staying power is increasing. The local Taliban which claims that it has not links with the Afghan based variety, continued to bomb schools and impose its harsh system of justice on citizens. Men without beards and women out of burqas were “arrested.”
The Taliban has also issued a list of people it says it wants to appear before its “court.” The list includes prominent politicians of the North West Frontier Province, many of whom belong to the Awami National Party, currently headed by Asfandyar Wali, the grandson of Frontier Gandhi Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The Pakistan government says that there are foreign elements who are arming the local Taliban, which till some years back were ordinary clerics and their students who took to arms at the behest of others. As the incidents of violence rise, there are calls for a full fledged military action in this picturesque valley, a prospect that the government does not relish given the possibility of high rate of casualties.
Interior ministry advisor Rehman Malik says he is optimistic that the situation would be brought under control shortly but does not give a time frame. The people of the valley are less hopeful. For them, what is becoming increasinly clear is that their way of life is being drastically changed.
There are growing restrictions on what they can do and what they cannot do. The local tourism industry had come to a halt while economic activity in the valley, once known for its fruits and its woodcraft, has also been severely affected.
It is ironic that what was once part of Buddhist civilisation has now been taken over by fundamentalists intent on wiping out all remnants of the valley’s glorious history.