Oct 17, 2008

World - Pakistan;Living on a frontline

Munir (not his real name), an administrator in the Swat region of Pakistan, describes the challenges of daily life in his valley as the Taleban and the army vie for influence. This week, as schools are burned down in nearby villages, the area has to cope with lengthy power cuts.

We have been in deep trouble for many weeks now.

Yesterday, there was a terrible incident about 10km away from us. Two schools were torched, they were burned down. One of the buildings was an ordinary school and the other was a good college.

A friend of mine witnessed it. He said it was as if the school was blown up. He saw the flames in the buildings. The local Taleban have claimed responsibility for this.

In a village called Kabal the Taleban check vehicles and stop women who are not wearing the burqa

In our valley schools are open but the village is concerned. Attendance is very low in the main school. Many parents are afraid to send their children.
There is a lot of talk around here about what happened when the schools were burned down. Locals from that area say they believe the army did it because they don't think the Taleban could do something like that.

They see their local Taleban eating, smoking - they seem unable to do anything even though they claim responsibility for everything.

Even if somebody falls off a bicycle, they would claim responsibility for that. That is the popular perception.


People think the army does not do enough. In a village called Kabal the Taleban checks vehicles and stops women who are not wearing the burqa.

One man told me how just the other day he had been travelling with friends. The women in the car were asked to dismount. When she dismounted the Taleban slapped her in the face and asked why she didn't put on the veil.

The thing is, the army was just 25-30 yards away. They did nothing. When they act like that, people start to think they are responsible for things.

Power cuts

We have no power in our district. The power grid station and the gas supply were blown up. We get electricity for only one hour a day. I only get to use the internet once every 15 days or so.

Many people said they can't do business because they have no computer. All day and all night businesses have to shut down. People can't make money.

In my house we used to study at night but now our life has changed. We just go to bed. We can't study or do anything good. We have no light. Only rich people have generators.

It is the 21st Century and we don't have power. We haven't seen power for days in my village.

In the main city of Mingora there are constant traffic jams. It can take three hours to cover a stretch of 25 yards. It feels that a lot is falling apart.

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