Stories about Swat

The apple orchard in Swat

Oh, apple orchard of Swat! Are your apples as sweet, Your atmosphere as pungent, As the aroma of apples soon to ripen? Did military boots, Honour your sanctity? Or are you a picture of depravity, As I am now? Are the trees still standing, Steadfast against the horror, Imposed on them, Have they had enough time to blend, To the new environment, Like we humans do? I am sorry, oh, apple orchard, Because I have behaved like I was, Okay with what you have become. But do you know, That I am sane enough? Or is it my insanity, That I would give forever, To roam amongst thy sleepy hollow? And thy fairy tales? Oh, apple orchard in Swat, To me, you are ...

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Reviving tourism in Swat

Known for its dazzling beauty with high-peak mountains, lush green valleys, spectacular waterfalls and magical lakes, Swat Valley has remained a tourist’s paradise. Containing thousands of years of history, the valley is not only known for its natural beauty but also for its rich cultural heritage and various civilisations which sprang there. Apart from summer tourism, the valley offers much more for winter tourists. Every year, the skiing slope of Malam Jabba is swarmed with tourists who enjoy the serene environment and hills covered in snow. Tourism, apart from agriculture, is the backbone of Swat’s economy. More than half of ...

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Unattended IDPs: Fodder for terrorists

Fifty five year old Haji Khatab Khan has lived in the Jalozai refugee camp near Peshawar as an IDP for the last two years. On June 7, he will face the dreary reality of returning to what once used to be his home in Bajaur Agency, but the homecoming will not be festive. “Security forces demolished our houses in Mamond [Tehsil of Bajaur Agency], so where should we go now?” he beseeches, adding that he wants compensation to rebuild his house that was destroyed in the army operation to wipe out militants from his area. The situation is alarming. A blogger ...

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A consensus on water

I was one of some 30 journalists from all parts of Pakistan who recently spent five days together in Swat to discuss water and flood-related issues. Swat was the place where one of the most devastating floods in the country’s history originated last year so it was a befitting venue for a talk on water and flood-related issues. Almost every one of these journalists has covered and witnessed the devastation caused by the floods. The geographical areas that they covered might have been different but the miseries and their scale that the reporters based their stories upon were more or less ...

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Journalists need to help Swat

All reporters and journalists should join hands together to help rebuild Swat Valley and restore it to its previous glory. Known as the Switzerland of Asia, the region was, it seems, deliberately pushed into the hands of extremists who were not only financially nurtured but also backed, many say, by the powers that be. There is considerable evidence of this, especially in how Mullah Fazlullah, then head of the Swat Taliban, was allowed to air his venomous broadcasts to the people of the valley for many months. I would request all my colleagues and other patriotic reporters of my country to write ...

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Conspiracy theories surrounding Swat

Since Swat valley witnessed the ugly face of the Fazlullah-led Talibanisation movement, a hot topic for discussion has been the theory of unseen powers working behind the game. Be it street talk or scholarly analysis, the locals give vent to the perception that some ‘secret hands’ nurtured the mayhem that plagued the paradise on earth for years. Ironically, no one dares to expose any names of the actors responsible for the growth of what can only be called ‘barbarism’. Many are of the opinion that the Taliban and the security forces are two sides of a coin engaged in a game ...

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Finding your inner Talib(an)

Sitting atop a mound and looking at the melee in the dusty streets, a student asks his teacher a question. Student: Who are the Taliban? Teacher: They are people with long beards (some with fake ones) and long locks. Guns are slung from their shoulders, their hands are full of grenades and they wear jackets that can blow people around them to smithereens. Student: Why do they kill people and themselves? Teacher: They want to Islamize society and the people. Student: Through terror? Teacher: They know no other way of doing it. Student: Why do the people of Swat deserve such brutal treatment? Teacher: They used to ...

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Confessions of a flawed feminist

“Should they be like us? Or should they be allowed to be different from us? This has been called an impossible choice.” – Leti Volpp I recall tumbling upon Volpp’s particular conundrum while I was working on my Master’s degree at Oxford. My preconceived notions regarding ‘feminism’ had hitherto been limited to the patrician suffrage struggles of Virginia Woolf’s essays, a bit of De Beauvoir and the provocative poetry of Urdu poet Parveen Shakir. At the time I still harboured the naïve impression that merely supporting women’s equality against all those that opposed it made me a feminist, until I ...

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The conditional humanity of Taliban

The Taliban have a humane side. No, I’m not kidding. It must be humanity that prompted the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to offer $20 million for the aid of flood victims and distribute relief goods. The scenario baffles the mind. Imagine the TTP in Swat, one of the worst hit areas. I assume victims would be directed to line up at Khooni Chowk in Mingora. I can imagine TTP workers shouting “All those who adhere to our brand of Islam, line up for aid. Anyone who dares to defy us, can go drown in the raging waters.” Obviously, this generous $20 million offer comes with a catch. The aid is available ...

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The most expensive Ramazan ever

The holy month of Ramazan has arrived with pre-dawn prayers, iftar’s and frantic efforts to make up for every sin committed during the rest of the year. For most of us, religious fervor is accompanied with more worldly pleasures like delicious parathas, traditional khajla and pheni to be devoured at sehri and the innumerable delights of Iftar. Would Ramazan even feel like Ramazan if not for the daily dose of fruit chat and the onion and potato pakoras and samosas? Traditional Ramazan fare has long fed the greed of hoarders and profiteers. But this year man made shortages have been eclipsed  by a natural destruction of an unbelievable ...

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