Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another school blown up by militants in Swat

It is depressing to see areas of Pakistan literally moving back to the Middle Ages in a short period of time. Another school was blown up by militants in Swat yesterday (also see an earlier post on schools in Swat). Its not just about the school or the hundreds of schools that have been burnt or destroyed - but about the mindset that is leading to pure savagery against other humans (hey - I don't even want to know how they treat animals). All Things Pakistan has a post on Pakistan at war, that lists some of these activities in the last couple of days. Here are some snippets related to schools and women (even in Quetta - a major city in Pakistan):
January 25, 2009. Daily Times. “An increasing number of restaurants in Quetta have stopped serving women apparently after being pressured by religious elements, and the practice is being seen as a spill-over of the Swat problem to the rest of Pakistan. Certain popular restaurants have now begun to display boards saying, ‘For gentlemen only. Women not allowed.’ Located on the city’s most crowded Jinnah Road, Baig Snack Bar has been one of the most popular eating places in Quetta.

January 23, 2009. The News. “Militants gunned down Amjad Islam, teacher of a private school who himself waged a Jihad against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, for not hiking up his shalwar (trouser) above his ankles. However, the issue did not end here but the militants went to the slain teacher’s house and gunned down his father, Ghani Akbar, a lawyer by profession. The militants later hung Amjad’s body from a pole in the Matta College Square.”

January 22, 2009. The News. “Continuing their attacks on schools, the militants destroyed two more schools in Khwazakhela and Matta areas. A government boys school was blown up in Sherpalam area of Matta, while a primary school was torched in Mangaltan village of Khwazakhela. Some unknown assailants attacked a police armoured personnel carrier (APC) in Saidu Sharif, the capital city of Swat district. The attack caused injuries to an official, Chinar Gul.”
Read the full post here. Also see this op-ed in Washington Post: A war on Pakistan's schoolgirls. And for an illustration of their mindset, here is a bit from a NYT article about Swat this past Sunday:

Few officials would dispute that one of the Pakistani military’s biggest mistakes in Swat was its failure to protect Pir Samiullah, a local leader whose 500 followers fought the Taliban in the village of Mandal Dag. After the Taliban killed him in a firefight last month, the militants demanded that his followers reveal his gravesite — and then started beheading people until they got the information, one Mandal Dag villager said.

“They dug him up and hung his body in the square,” the villager said, and then they took the body to a secret location. The desecration was intended to show what would happen to anyone who defied the Taliban’s rule, but it also made painfully clear to Swat residents that the Pakistani government could not be trusted to defend those who rose up against the militants.

Gruesome displays like the defilement of Pir Samiullah’s remains are an effective tactic for the Taliban, who have shown cruel efficiency in following through on their threats.

Recently, Shah Doran broadcast word that the Taliban intended to kill a police officer who he said had killed three people.

“We have sent people, and tomorrow you will have good news,” he said on his nightly broadcast, according to a resident of Matta, a Taliban stronghold. The next day the decapitated body of the policeman was found in a nearby village.

Even in Mingora, a town grown hardened to violence, residents were shocked early this month to find the bullet-ridden body of one of the city’s most famous dancing girls splayed on the main square.

Known as Shabana, the woman was visited at night by a group of men who claimed to want to hire her for a party. They shot her to death and dragged her body more than a quarter-mile to the central square, leaving it as a warning for anyone who would flout Taliban decrees.
Pakistan is indeed at war - and this is what it is facing. Read this NYT article here.


Matthew said...

Is there a role for the rest of the world to play in this, or is this something that has to be dealt with within Pakistan?

As I type this I realize my own question doesn't make sense, because the Taleban are being supported from outside Pakistan, either with direct support or through drug money...

What I mean is there anything the rest of the world can do to stop this? Is there any desire among the vast majority of Pakistanis to have foreign assistance in this, up to and including direct military intervention?

Questions About Faith, Etc. said...

What effect do you think Obama will have on mideast peace? Will his kindness and strength stir things up more or will he be a pacifier in the region?

Salman Hameed said...

Well...this is not simply a Pakistan problem. If this trend continues, then this will lead to a collapse of society in Pakistan - with its 160 million inhabitants. That said, the effectiveness of drone attacks need a serious evaluations. They have been effective in taking out some high value targets, but there has been significant collateral damage. More interestingly, the effectiveness of these attacks, it seems, have pushed the Taliban to the more populous mainstream areas of Pakistan.

So it comes back to strong economic incentives along with security. It seems that the Obama administration will be moving in the economic direction. It is not clear what to do about security. Ultimately, it will be the Pakistani forces that will have to deal with this - and it is not clear if they have the capability of fighting an insurgency. So again, military assistance in training Pakistani forces in counter-insurgency will be helpful - but that will require defusing tensions with India.

This is going to be a very tough problem - but I don't think we can afford to loose. But ultimately Pakistanis will have to realize that it is a fight for their own existence. This has often worked well in creating animosity against India - but the real monster is already inside its western borders.

Matthew said...

Do Pakistani forces have the desire to fight the insurgency? Some of this is ethnic I assume, but are there people in the Pakistani armed forces sympathetic to hard-line religious groups of any ethnicity? Or are they simply overwhelmed by or underprepared for the fight? Or both?

I agree that the coalition airstrikes within Pakistan are not helping this politically, but are they really driving that many people toward the Taleban, or simply away from what they perceive as an ineffective central government (and the west)? I can't believe large numbers of people in Pakistan actually want this. The fact that they're killing and intimidating people to consolidate their gains tells me they're not ruling a population that loves them or their ideas.

I agree that the Pakistani people probably have to fight this one, with or without outside financial, intelligence, materiel, and/or tactical support. I hope they win it -- it won't be easy or painless.

Salman Hameed said...

Do Pakistani forces have the desire to fight the insurgency?

Well...yes, this has been one of the issues, and we'll see what will happens in Swat. Here is an interesting tone from the army: they are talking about "retaking" Swat. This is a significant statement. Remember, Swat is not part of FATA - and is included in Pakistan proper - and it is an admission of loosing a significant chunk of territory. My reading is that this is going to be a serious operation. But I think if this didn't succeed in dislodging the Taliban (for whatever reason), then we may quickly start seeing more adjacent areas falling to the Taliban.

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