June 2, 2018


Once Ruled By Taliban, Residents Of Pakistan's Swat Valley Say Army Should Leave (Diaa Hadid, 6/02/18, NPR)

The Taliban, based in Imam Dherai, took control of the entire Swat Valley and held power until the Pakistani military retook the area in 2009. But nearly a decade later, the soldiers remain. Military checkpoints dot the roads. Residents say soldiers occupy government buildings in their towns and villages. And they say the military has overstayed its welcome.

When a Pakistani airstrike crushed the radio station in 2009, many residents said they cheered. Fazlullah escaped, and now leads the Pakistani Taliban, who remain violently opposed to the Pakistani state.

"It's a black chapter of our history," Waris, a 22-year-old Swat Valley resident, said with a sigh. "We prefer to forget it." He requested NPR only use his first name because he still fears the Taliban.

Still, he pointed out, "There is also our Malala Yousafzai."

Pakistan's Nobel Peace laureate, who recently returned to Swat for the first time since she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, was born and raised here. As a child, she defied the Taliban by calling for girls' education.

Fawad, a 28-year-old activist, said the army routinely points to Swat as a success story. He preferred not to use his full name, to avoid possible repercussions from the military.

"As they are saying, we have established peace in Swat," Fawad said. "We want them to give full authority to civilian government -- to police and local government."

Posted by at June 2, 2018 9:43 AM