Are the Taliban making a comeback in Swat Valley?
On 16th September a bomb ripped through Lower Dir killing 16 people. Almost simultaneously there were attacks by militants crossing the Afghan border to attack security forces and border posts in Lower Dir. Initial reports suggested the Swat Taliban chapter of the TTP had accepted responsibility for the attacks and Rehman Malik blamed Maulana Fazlullah who was hiding in Afghanistan. This should have been an eye-opener, a warning that the Taliban were making inroads into Lower Dir and Swat again by using the Afghan border. Today an attack took place on Malala Yousufzai claimed by the Swat Taliban which has gravely wounded the fourteen year old.
Malala made headlines with her rightful opposition to the Taliban. She advocated peace and education in Swat valley and became a household name for tolerance and progress in Mingora, an icon for young students in the valley to look up to.
When the Taliban banned female education in the district she wrote for the BBC about the misdeeds of the militants. She was also a speaker for the Child Assembly in Swat which works for child rights in the district. She was awarded the National Peace Award by the government of Pakistan in December 2011 for trying to promote peace in near-impossible circumstances.
The attack on a National Icon has sent shockwaves, especially after Mingora was said to have been cleared of militants. It gives the message that no one in the country is safe.
In a brave speech when receiving the Azm-E-Alishan award Malala Yousufzai criticized militants and encouraged girls in the tribal areas to defy them which may have sparked the ire of terrorists.
The signs are now unmistakable and this belies the claims of the Pakistani army which has said Swat has been cleared of militants completely. The Taliban may not have a public presence in Swat anymore but they are still waiting for their chance, biding their time away from prying eyes. In an article for the Pulitzer Center Shaheen Buneri had warned that Swat hasn’t completely been cleared of militants and if the situation is not addressed immediately more innocents will lose their lives, or worse, Swat valley may once again become infested with militants.
The government, the army and the institutions should do everything in their power to address the situation. Malala Yousufzai wasn’t just any schoolgirl. She was an idol who gave the people of Swat courage to stand up against militancy, to follow their dreams and aspirations, to educate their girls and women where it is considered a taboo for many. The government already allowed Mohammed Farooq Khan, a man who stood for a peaceful, non-violent understanding of Islam and Pashtuns to be silenced. It should not allow the same to happen to another progressive voice in Swat.
It is also becoming clear that despite Swat being partially cleared the government has not moved in to provide aid and welfare to the local people. Many schools destroyed remain in rubble, hospitals lack supplies and the University of Swat still lacks facilities and has failed to offer a Masters Program after four years.
Solid steps need to be taken to ensure security and the perpetrators of the attack on Malala must be arrested.
The writer is Havi Sultan a book writer and author of over 40-50 articles and blog posts and his twitter handle is @HaviZSultan