October 31, 2008

PAKISTAN: Swat on the verge of civil war

By Khurshid Khan


Valley swat has been divided in two administrative units Tehsil swat and Thesil Matta. Both have their separate councils. Matta Tehsil council consists of thirteen Union Councils. Abdul Jabar Khan is its elected Tehsil Nazim while Naib- Nazim Zakirullah khan has been killed in the recent imbroglio in swat. The area is called Bar Swat (Upper swat) in local vernacular. Matta Town is the main trading center as well as the administration headquarter some 22 miles away from Mingawara city. The total population of upper swat is 251368 according to the 1998 censuses. Its total area is about 683 square kilometers. The population annual growth rate is 3.04 %.

Upper swat has mailnly divided into two territories Shamizai and Sibujni Sebat khel on the basis of Wesh (land distribution system,). The inhabitants of Shamizai belong to Yusufzai tribe of Pukhtuns and are lead by Afzal khan. Subjini Sebat khel inhabited by Nazar Khel and Shama khel. Nazar khel are Shinwaries while Shama khel belongs to Tarkalani tribe. Sebujni also has Balol Khel and sena Khel. The people of labat, Gwalerai and above are Sena Khel

Upper Swat consists of two main valleys, Sakhra and Rodingar. Arnwai stream irrigates Rodingar valley up to Totkai While Bawrai stream irrigates Sakhra valley up to Bagderai. Shawarai stream irrigates the narrow valley of Shawar. This is the unfortunate and notorious valley where Gatt and Pewchar villages are situated. The national and international media has brought these areas into the spotlight in the recent time.

These valleys are well known for their natural beauty, fertile soil and agricultural produce. Fruit orchards are the main cash crop of the valleys. The famous Swat Apples are cultivated and produced here. The natural forests of Pines and Deodars and medicinal plants are also the income generation sources. The inhabitants of the area are considered rich and prosper people in swat. They stick to the strict code of Pukhtunwali. But unfortunately the whole swat in general and upper swat in particular is in the venomous tentacles of terror since last year. The significant and influential elders of the area have been murdered, migrated or detained in their houses and hujras. The houses of many influential are incinerated and looted.

The important strategic points over the heights across the valley are under the control of the security forces while the militants control the villages and hamlets in the outskirts of proper Matta Town. Explosions, kidnappings and murders have become day to day affairs in the area which are augmented by infinite and endless curfews. Most of the fruits and vegetables are wasted away due to non- accessibility to the main markets.

Last Sunday, October 26, 2008, the miserable people of the area encountered still another terrible situation. The local elders of Biha, Gwalerai and Bartanra union councils formed a jirga congregated in the main Mosque of Gwalerai. The jirga was debating on the issue of deteriorating law and order situation, security forces’ indiscriminate shellings and air strikes and the consequent public casualties, injuries and private property’s destruction. The main jirga formed a delegation and sent it to the official of the security forces for negotiation over the alarming deteriorating condition of the area. It is reported that the members of the delegation were ambushed when they were returning. It is also said that the waiting jirga members in the mosque were also attacked killing several elders and about 70 were abducted. Several of the abducted elders were butchered ruthlessly and their bodies were thrown in the fields. The local people said that most of the dwellers of the area remained busy in burying the deceased on Monday. Most of the renowned elders of these three union councils were slaughtered in this onslaught. In one of the village, Gwalerai, six members of the same family were killed including four brothers. One of the local journalists says “thirty funerals at a time in the area presented the spectacles of dooms day. This incident has wiped out the bitter memories of Bartanra air strikes”.

Militants freed four abducted leaders on Wednesday on the condition that they will deliver their message to the local people and inform them of their strict conditions after which the other abductees will be freed. The leaders met the local elders and persuaded them to conform to the conditions of Militants. The conditions are; that no one will even think about organizing a force against Militants and will never be a member of such an enterprise. That they will never support Pir Samiullah and will never meet the security forces. And that Militant will freely patrol the area and no one will put hurdles in their way.

After ensuring that these conditions will be followed in true spirits, the militants freed sixty five more abductees Thursday.

The local people say that raising a Lakhkar / Lashkar (a tribal force taking the field under the tribal banner at the time of need without any payment, at their own’s cost; arms and ammunitions) is not to wage war against militants and make ground for security forces arrival but to establish peace and harmony in the area, reopen the educational institutes and restore traffic on the roads. But instead of achieving these peaceful objectives we received only bloodshed and became victims of bloodshed and destruction only.

The security forces banned the local journalists and media from coverage the event and imposed infinite curfew in the area.

This situation has brought both Taliban and public face to face; the militants are in the “do or die” situation. The concept of revenge is so deep rooted in the Pukhtun society that it is next to impossible to remove this code from this society. This volatile situation has given rise to two speculations; people in the same household will raise guns in favour or against militants and the chances of the formation of Lakhkar are fading. If this war spreads out to each household, clan and village, the destruction and annihilation will engender situation of hair raising.

This civil war must be stopped immediately which can be accomplished through proper co-ordination among local, district and provincial authorities. A peace treaty between the militant and the local people and the withdrawal of militants from these areas can halt the disastrous civil war.

Another alarming development in the area is the mysterious appearance of a new and significant figure, Pir Samiullah, of Tangar village of the area. He has his own circle of followers and admirers which spreads out to considerable area. In addition to this, the Gujar community also supports him due to ethnic affiliation. Local people said that Pir Samiullah is the only potential rival of militant leader Fazlullah in the area. A local Daily reported that security forces are taking extraordinary interest in this new development. The daily also reported the landing of military helicopters in Pir Samiullah‘s village on Monday.

If a war erupts between Pir Samiullah and militant leader Fazlullah, then the eye opening example of Bara in Khyber Agency should be glanced first .Thus, this war may take the shape of sectarianism which will be another shocking and new development in the history of swat. The alarming development will be the war between the militants and the local people in which the major losers will be the public. Uncountable human lives will be lost and properties damaged as a consequence of this venture.

The elders, representatives of swat and the provincial government who has its peace ambassador, should raise to the occasion and stop the impending calamity which has not happened yet.

It is also the responsibility of organizations working for peace, print and electronic media to come forward to make the ground work for the peace deal. If this movement does not commence now, then perhaps, it will not be needed.

Email: bazirkhan@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

almost agreed with the basic adea of the author,in my opinion mr. khan ignored the nagetive role of local elite in creation of this phiaminen.

Anonymous said...

hi there if government is just changing phases it will get nothing but bloodshed these people are ignorant and they just want shariat but our government are more ignorant then taliban what they do forces have attacked 90%of civilpopulation some lost brothers some lost all family members so there is a number rising of non militant revengers whos only aim is meet their family before killing hundreds in a suicide bomb.police and paramilitary killing to taliban is just killing of a chicken but for regular they have to take a big sword do you know people our army was renowned for its bravery in the world but looking into the situation in swat i think if india sends it police force to pakistan pakistan will be conquered in a few days well done pakistan army and politicians get weaker soon and one think more these politicain should be decapitated regularly bcs they have taken ours people money for their own during there govnment if some one wants to know how many soldiers are killed i na average day so come to matta tehsil there are a lots of bodies putrefied numbering in hundreds

Anonymous said...

the author wrote in the article:
"The inhabitants of Shamizai belong to Yusufzai tribe of Pukhtuns and are lead by Afzal khan. Subjini Sebat khel inhabited by Nazar Khel and Shama khel. Nazar khel are Shinwaries while Shama khel belongs to Tarkalani tribe. Sebujni also has Balol Khel and sena Khel. The people of labat, Gwalerai and above are Sena Khel"
which is completely incorrect judgement of those tribes. all f these tribes are yusufzai Afghans. although there are nazarkhel in shinwari tribe and also ghilzai. but they are not yusufzai.