Monday, July 13, 2009







Claiming 'victory' too early

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Rahimullah Yusufzai

A day after the ruling Awami National Party (ANP) declared "victory" in Malakand Division and its provincial president Afrasiyab Khattak congratulated his party leaders on what in his view was a successful military campaign in Swat, Buner and Dir, three ANP workers, and cousins – Shamsher Ali Khan, Gohar Ali Khan and Usman Ali Khan – were killed by Taliban militants in Malikpur village near the shrine of the famous saint Pir Baba in Buner district. Gohar Ali Khan's brother, Jamil Ali Khan, had been kidnapped a month ago and the militants are demanding Rs10 million as ransom for his release.

This was surely embarrassing for the NWFP government. But by then there was one more embarrassing news circulating in Peshawar and the rest of the province. Rather, the news had spread to the whole country and beyond, and was also being discussed on the Facebook. The houses of two senior journalists from Buner had been torched and their families rendered shelterless in their ancestral villages. On the night of July 8-9, the spacious nine-room house of Geo TV correspondent Behroz Khan was put on fire in Balo Khan village near Pir Baba town after having been looted by the militants. The same night, in the nearby Polan village, the newly-built house of Rahman Bunairee, associated with the Pashto-language Deewa Radio of the Voice of America and the AVT Khyber television channel, was demolished with explosives.

Houses are built with love and lots of money. Often, life savings are spent on building a house. One loses so much if deprived of one's home. Imagine the house of your dreams being burned to ashes or dynamited and turned into rubble. One was relieved to know that Rahman Bunairee's family wasn't harmed by the 60-or-so armed men who introduced themselves as Taliban and, rather intriguingly, told them in polite words to vacate the house before it was blown up with expertly planted explosives. The shocked family members have now joined Rahman Bunairee in Karachi, where he is based. In Behroz Khan's case, he had wisely shifted his family to Peshawar sometime back. The militants subsequently occupied his home and used it as a base before looting everything that could be carted away and breaking the goods that were immoveable. His family suffered another huge loss when its privately-owned forest was burnt down by the security forces fearing the forest could be used by the militants as a hideout. The forest was the family's labour of love because every tree had been tended.

While on the subject of forests, it would take a while to calculate the losses inflicted upon the environment as a result of the militancy and military operations in Buner, Swat, Dir, Shangla and the rest of Malakand Division. Stretches of forests caught fire and turned into ashes when the artillery shelled or bombed landed there. The fires thus started have raged uncontrollably in the forests in summers. Villagers in the Salarzai area in Buner and in the bordering villages in Mardan district narrate how the thick forest in Namser on the Buner side and in Sangahu towards Mardan was burned this summer following a military action against the militants. Mountain communities in Malakand Division and the tribal areas, dependant to some extent on forests for their means of livelihood, are certainly heading for a life of more poverty, timber prices will rise due to supply shortages and the wildlife is getting deprived of habitat. Afghanistan, particularly its forested southern and eastern provinces such as Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman and Nangarhar, lost its forests due to decades of war and lawlessness and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, which area-wise had the largest forests in the country, is now facing the same fate.

Behroz Khan and Rahman Bunairee are the latest in the long list of journalists who have suffered human and material losses as a result of the conflict in the NWFP. Those who have paid with their lives include Amir Nawab Wazir and Allah Noor Wazir in South Waziristan, Hayatullah in North Waziristan, Noor Hakim and Ibrahim Jan in Bajaur, Naseer Afridi in Darra Adamkhel and Sirajuddin, Qari Shoaib, Abdul Aziz and Musa Khankhel in Swat. Others lost a family member or were shot and injured and many were forced to move from their place of work to safer places. Some had no choice but to give up the profession or agree to work on the terms dictated by the militants and the government.

Pursuing honest and truthful journalism has become the most risky job in the Frontier, more so in the tribal borderland where there is rule of the gun.

Behroz Khan fearlessly spoke for his journalist colleagues when he remarked that that the destruction of his house wasn't going to break his resolve and deter him from performing his professional obligations. In his words, the enemy was faceless but journalists were required to speak the truth under any circumstances. Rahman Bunairee, who like many residents of Buner took pride in identifying himself as a Buneri, Bunerwal or Bunairee, was also unaware about the identity of those who targeted him and destroyed his house. He remembered having criticised both the militants and the government, the former for inflicting suffering on the people of Buner, Swat and elsewhere, and the latter for its failure to protect the life and honour of the population and look after the needs of the displaced persons.

However, it is obvious that those in the habit of harming journalists are sending a strong message that the journalists must fall in line or face the consequences. The militants have openly threatened members of the media, and their anger against journalists is boiling over in view of their falling support among the masses and lesser coverage compared to the past in newspapers and on radio and television. For obvious reasons, the journalists are also scared of the intelligence agencies and critical of the government and the security forces for imposing a media blackout in the conflict areas. They find themselves helpless in doing a proper job while reporting the conflict. Unafraid to risk their lives and willing to travel to the frontlines of the ongoing war, they could do a far better job despite lacking in resources, training and support from the media organisations.

In fact, greater media access to the conflict zones would provide a credible portrayal of the situation and help remove the cloud of doubts regarding the military operations and the claims about the army's battleground achievements.

Instead of declaring premature victory, the ANP leadership should admit that the war is not over yet and that it is going to be long and bitter. There is no harm in conceding that the situation is still precarious, that the Taliban leadership in Swat and the rest of Malakand region has largely survived the military action. The incapacity and inefficiency of the provincial and federal governments in coping with the issue of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) should also be conceded. Instead of downplaying the challenge, it will be better to highlight the enormous task of repatriating and rehabilitating the IDPs and providing them the much-needed security in their villages and towns.

More than 150 ANP workers were reportedly killed in Swat alone during the past two years of violence and now they are also being targeted in Buner. Earlier, many ANP members had publicly dissociated themselves from the party in Swat, Malakand Agency and other places in the area to escape harm at the hands of the militants. The insecurity felt by the ruling party workers would scare away common people from supporting the government and the security forces. And the much-publicised attacks against members of the media would send home the message that anyone critical of the militants could expect the same fate. This is just a glimpse of the uncertain situation prevailing in the conflict areas. Those pronouncing the start of the repatriation process of the IDPs as a signal of victory would be well-advised to keep their celebrations on hold, as it isn't over yet.NEWS 14-7-09

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Swat offensive seen slow, but on track


The offensive against the Taliban in Swat is taking longer than expected, but that is unlikely to deflect the military from its plans, nor – for now – undercut public support for the action. The army went on the attack in Swat at the end of April after Taliban gains raised international worry about Pakistan’s stability. Later, the government and the military have set their sights on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan near the Afghan border. The military says Mehsud is responsible for 90 percent of terrorist attacks in the country. While the military has not put a timeframe on the Swat offensive, there has been speculation the army would want to secure the valley before launching a push on Mehsud, and clashes in Swat could delay that. “It has definitely taken a longer time, but it’s explainable in terms of the terrain, the mountains,” said defence analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi. “They have entrenched themselves more than people generally thought, that’s why the military is having problems in completing the whole process,” he said. The failure to capture or kill leaders of the Taliban in Swat spelt trouble, another analyst said. “Unless you eliminate the leadership, however much damage you do, the command structure will manage to grow back,” said security analyst Ikram Sehgal. “As long as that leadership exists, low-intensity guerrilla warfare will keep going on.” But analysts said while Swat fighting might drag on, that would not deflect the military from going after Baitullah. “I don't think there is a necessary relationship between the two in terms of getting done with one and then going to the next one,” said Kamran Bokhari, Middle East director for global intelligence company Stratfor. “They’re not waiting to get done with Swat before focusing on South Waziristan,” he said. “They know Swat is not over yet. Are they going to wait? It could take months. Would you want to allow Baitullah Mehsud the opportunity to do what he can?” The military is setting up choke points to surround Mehsud’s mountain stronghold and working with ethnic Pashtun tribes in the area to lock in their support. “That’s going to determine when they’re going to go in,” said Bokhari. For now, the fear that Taliban expansion spread through the country was ensuring public support for the offensive. The political opposition – including Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which will be the main government challenger in the next election due by 2113 – is supportive. “His party has come to the conclusion that as long as these Taliban are not really taken care of, governance will be a hell of a problem,” said Rizvi. “They’re not going to create problems for the government on this issue.” But questions will arise before too long if Taliban violence persists and internally displaced persons languish in misery, he said. “It might become a political problem if Swat is not returned to a normal situation, maybe, by the end of August,” said Rizvi. “Then there will be real questions.” As well as the possible problem of the suffering of the displaced undermining wider government support, anger among the displaced people can be exploited by the Taliban. “It’s not that public support for the offensive will go down, but it could create a separate unrest that you will have to deal with. These people are susceptible to Taliban propaganda,” said Bokhari. Sehgal said pro-Taliban clerics were operating in some tent camps on the lowland where the displaced are being looked after. “This is very dangerous. As soon as they dismantle the camps the better,” he said. reuters DAILY TIMES 8-7-09

Monday, June 29, 2009


"Daily Times" Editorial:

The long wait in Kurram

As Kurram Agency on the border with Afghanistan waits for the return of the writ of the Pakistani state for the past three years, the Taliban depredations in the guise of sectarianism continue around the headquarters of the Parachinar agency. At least 33 people were killed and 65 others injured in “sectarian clashes” in various parts of Kurram Agency on Friday night and Saturday. In the last 12 days, the casualty list includes 89 people dead and 175 injured.

The local population has virtually given up on Pakistan during the two years that have seen all roads going to Pakistan cut off and the federal government ditching them after promising to come to their help “within a fortnight”. The local administration, if it can be called that, “cooperates” with the Taliban in the interim and exposes the besieged Shia majority population of Parachinar. According to a local tribesman quoted in the press: “We have had over 700 young people martyred but have not allowed these militants to secure a toehold in upper Kurram. Now the influx of Taliban from Swat, Dir and other areas is worsening the situation”.

Because Pakistan has virtually said goodbye to Kurram, it is no longer possible for the people of the agency to get food and medicine from Pakistan. The Sunni Taliban and their cohorts accuse the Shia of getting help from Afghanistan; the Shia accuse the Sunni groups of getting ever-increasing fighting manpower from Waziristan and Hangu.

Kurram faces Tora Bora on the other side of the border. This is the route that Al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters took to escape from Afghanistan in 2001. The local Parachinar population, being Shia, did not cooperate because of the age-old rivalry between them and the surrounding Sunni tribes. After the establishment of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) things have got much worse since the Sunni militias that hunt the local Shia are commanded by warlords owing allegiance to Baitullah Mehsud.

The sectarian scourge is also strengthened by the schism in the nearby Orakzai Agency where Baitullah’s commander Hakimullah has nearly 8,000 fighters under him and is busy warring with the opponent Shia militia of Hussain Ali Shah with 7,000 fighters at his disposal. As this war spilled into Kurram, another commander of Baitullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain, the expert in preparing suicide-bombers in a matter of hours, has been operating against the Shia in Kurram. Qari Hussain was reported killed recently during military operation, but his partners are carrying on the sectarian massacre after him.

If and when Pakistan decides to tackle the crisis in Kurram it will find that after years of neglect, the killing machine of the Taliban has bound Kurram to Orakzai, Khyber and Darra Adamkhel through the activities of commander Hakimullah. Other NWFP cities like Hangu and Kohat have caught the virus because of the presence of the Taliban at their outskirts with local administration increasingly in the subordinate mode with them. The Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathisers in Kohat are the actual rulers in this region and have their outreach into Islamabad through the Lal Masjid clergy.

After the death of Qari Hussain, it is the warlord of Darra Adamkhel, Commander Tariq, who is carrying on the war against the Kurram population with the help of other TTP allies. Long years of neglect have tilted the Shia population in favour of some help that they get from the Hazaras of Afghanistan. Also, after the area was cut off from the rest of Pakistan, the Kurram Shias were said to be receiving some assistance from Iran. This has actually exacerbated the situation with a more intensified polarisation between the Shia and those fighting a covert war against Iran.

The people of Kurram have waited a long time for the state of Pakistan to rescue them. Now as the state asserts itself for sovereignty in South Waziristan and the TTP and Al Qaeda terrorists are on the run, the time may have come for the Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, to fulfil his pledge that Pakistan would come to the rescue of Kurram “within a fortnight”. That was said many months ago. Daily Times 29-6-09


By Rahimullah Yusufzai

Baitullah Mehsud has become the only Pakistani with a head-money separately announced by both the Pakistan government and the US.
However, the head money placed on him by the US is far larger than that announced by Pakistan. It is offering $5 million, or Rs410 million, for his capture. In comparison, the Pakistan government offer of Rs50 million, or $600,000, for credible information that could lead to his capture is peanuts.

As someone remarked, bounty-hunters would inform the US authorities to claim the head money instead of telling the Pakistan government due to the much bigger amount of dollars being offered by the Americans. Requesting anonymity, he said the two governments should pool their efforts not only in terms of the head money they are offering for Baitullah Mehsud, or BM as he is called by officials of the intelligence agencies, but also getting him killed or captured through a coordinated strategy.
The belated announcement of head-money by the Pakistan government for Baitullah Mehsud and 10 other Pakistani Taliban commanders was made through an advertisement carried by newspapers on Sunday. All 11 of them are affiliated to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and belong to Fata.

In terms of the head-money, Baitullah Mehsud is followed by his deputy Maulana Faqir Muhammad, who is the Taliban commander for Bajaur. Head money for him is Rs15 million or $182,000.

The head money for five other TTP commanders — Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid and Qari Shakeel from Mohmand Agency, Tariq Afridi from Darra Adamkhel and Hakimullah Mahsud and Qari Hussain from South Waziristan — is Rs10 million each or $122,000.

Qari Hussain’s name in the list of wanted militants with head-money should be enough to deny recent reports in sections of the media that he was killed in the June 23 US drone attack on a funeral gathering in South Waziristan. Known as the ìUstad-e-Fidayeen,î or trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussain personally phoned some reporters in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan to refute media reports that he had been killed.
For the remaining four TTP commanders, the head-money is Rs5 million or $61,000. They are Qari Ziaur Rahman, who in fact is an Afghan national living in Bajaur, Fazal Saeed Otayzai from Kurram Agency, Mufti Ilyas from Darra Adamkhel, and Waliur Rahman alias Aliur Rahman from Bajaur.

The newspaper advertisement announcing head-money for the 11 TTP commanders didnít carry their pictures. Government officials handling the matter said they didnít have any pictures of the 11 wanted men. This was strange and shows the lack of intelligence on the TTP leadership that is presently available with the government.

The newspaper advertisement, however, provided the name of the fathers of the 11 men, their tribe and address. Bounty-hunters were promised secrecy in case they came forward with credible information for nabbing the wanted men, alive or dead.

Four phone numbers were also listed for informers having information about the whereabouts of Baitullah Mahsud and the 10 other men. However, efforts to reach those phone numbers turned out to be tough exercise. There was no response from the toll-free number 0800-15015 even after a long wait and effort. The phone rang on the other side when the number 091-9210210 was contacted but nobody answered. The phone number 091-9210457 remained busy whenever it was called. Only the fourth number, 091-9212158, could be reached after some effort. The operator who answered said about 20 people made calls on the phone number from places like Peshawar, Malakand and Karak but nobody provided any information about the whereabouts of the wanted Taliban commanders. ìThey were just curious. They wanted to know more about the head-money and the wanted militants,î he said while hastening to request anonymity.

The US announcement of $5 million head-money for Baitullah Mahsud a few months ago catapulted him to the rank of a senior al-Qaeda leader. Such a huge amount hasnít been offered for the capture of most of al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders who until now have been killed or captured. Though he is a Pakistani Taliban commander loyal to the Afghan Taliban leader Mulla Muhammad Omar, the US government accused him of being an al-Qaeda facilitator. Baitullah Mahsud was also accused of sending fighters to Afghanistan to attack the US-led coalition forces.

It may be added that Osama bin Laden and his deputy Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri carry head-money of $25 million each. The head-money for Afghan Taliban leader Mulla Muhammad Omar is $10 million. Despite such huge amounts, the three men are still at large. In fact, there have been no sightings of bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mulla Omar since the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in December 2001 and all reports regarding their whereabouts are based on speculations.
Earlier on May 28, the ANP-PPP coalition government in NWFP had announced head-money for the 21 Taliban leaders and commanders from Swat. It included the Swat Taliban head Maulana Fazlullah with a head-money of Rs50 million, an amount equal to that offered by the Pakistan government for Baitullah Mahsudís capture. The offer of reward to informers didnít have any impact, at least until now, as none of the 21 wanted Taliban commanders from Swat has been killed or captured. NEWS 29-6-09

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Endgame closing in on Baitullah ( EDITORIAL IN THE DAILY TIMES OF JUNE 25,2009)

Baitullah Mehsud has had his opponent Qari Zainuddin murdered in Dera Ismail Khan for disclosing facts about him that he had denied. If this is a measure of how Baitullah will react to his diminishing hold over his objectors, then he is sure to kill another local rival Turkistan Bitani who had made public his criminal activities last week. Does this mean that Baitullah is gaining the upper hand in the region where the Pakistan Army is now challenging him with an operation? The fact to keep in mind is that Zainuddin and Bitani were encouraged to speak out because of the hope revived in them by the military operation. That Baitullah has had to kill Zainuddin instead of ignoring him as in the past points to his growing insecurity.Pakistan has been opposed to the American drone attacks on its territory, but not without some evidence that the local population living under the heel of Baitullah Mehsud did not mind them. There was a time when the drones did not target Baitullah simply because he was not attacking American troops across the Durand Line. This was a tactic of keeping down the number of people operating in Afghanistan through the “incentive” of “non-strikes”. Now that pattern is changing and the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is feeling the heat of missiles coming from the drones. On Tuesday, these missiles killed at least 51 Taliban in South Waziristan, where the army is poised for an attack on Baitullah’s stronghold.South Waziristan under attack is going to expose a whole lot of people hiding there and operating in neighbouring countries. The estimates about the strength of the people Baitullah has under arms keep changing; so do the estimates about the funds he has at his disposal. He is now said to have approximately 20,000 militants. There was a time when people thought he could mobilise 50,000. Only the “foreigners” he was protecting were supposed to be 5,000. To the number of Uzbeks, Arabs, Chechens and Uighurs have been added a number of Tajiks who are fighting against the Uzbek-dominated regime of Tajikistan. Uzbekistan has suffered a number of attacks guided from South Waziristan by Qari Tahir Yuldashev of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Baitullah has also allegedly used IMU men to kill the innocent people of Swat.Before the decision to mount a military operation against him, Baitullah enjoyed the kind of grudging recognition that tyrants enjoy when they are unchallenged. The mere fact that the army has decided to go for him has changed that point of view. The greatest weakness suffered by him is the loss of support from the people of Pakistan who now consider him a threat to the state and to Islam itself. Not only have his opponents come out of their hiding to speak out against him, his suicide-bombers are being caught “before the fact” in all the vulnerable cities of Pakistan because of the slackening of the will to die for someone who is no longer a model for them.Perhaps it was a wrong strategy to mop up his lieutenants on the margins and leave him alone at the centre to gradually suffer a waning of his power. Fazlullah in Swat and other commanders in Bajaur and Orakzai were engaged simply because they were more manageable as targets in territories considered easy terrain. That strategy has partly paid off because the commanders have tended to run away to South Waziristan after being defeated in their regions. But the decision to go for South Waziristan is without a doubt more effective in lowering the prestige and outreach of TTP in the whole of Pakistan. TTP minions who cut a man’s both hands in Hangu on Tuesday for theft will be sorted out after Baitullah has got his comeuppance from the army.


Zainuddin’s assassination exposes Taliban rifts ( FROM DAILY TIMES OF JUNE 25,2009)

* South Waziristan residents adopting a wait-and-see approach

* Neither Taliban commander ready to send fighters to Mehsud’s aid for fear of drone strikes

PESHAWAR: The assassination of Qari Zainuddin, the leader of the renegade Taliban faction, by one of his own men underscores a growing rift in the ranks of the Taliban as they brace for an impending army assault.

Zainuddin’s killing on Tuesday sets back government hopes of exploiting these internal divisions in South Waziristan, where the army has been pounding strongholds of Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in apparent preparation for a major offensive.

Although Zainuddin was never seen as a serious challenger to Mehsud, the government had clearly hoped his outspoken criticism of the Taliban leader would foster others to defect and help the army with tips on where to find him.

Mahmood Shah, a former top security official, said the slaying sends a message to the government that only a major operation would have a chance of defeating Mehsud.

“Baitullah Mehsud has overcome all tribal dynamics. He has resources, funding and a fighting force to strike anywhere in Pakistan,” Shah said, calling him a front man for Al Qaeda and his home base of South Waziristan the “epicentre in the war on terror”.

The strength of the mutineers - led by Zainuddin, Turkestan Baitni and Commander Amir Thesil - is dwarfed by Mehsud’s army, said a tribal leader from South Waziristan who asked not to be identified because he feared either Mehsud or Mehsud’s enemies would kill him. He estimated Mehsud’s strength at upwards of 12,000 fighters, including Pakistanis, Afghans, Arabs, Uzbeks, Burmese, Chinese and even some Americans and Australians.

“They have control of the whole Mehsud area,” the tribal leader said, referring to a 4,000-kilometre swath of land in the remote, mountainous tribal zone. “He will be difficult to eliminate. The Pakistani forces will face a tough fight.”

“Any further defections from Baitullah’s group might not take place,” Shah said, adding that Zainuddin’s value to the government was that of a potential informant who “could tell where the hideouts would have been.”
Army spokesman Gen Athar Abbas said that the military has not helped any of the anti-Mehsud Taliban forces, which he said have not demonstrated an ability to protect themselves.

“The government may be engaging with them and may be doing whatever at a political level,” said Abbas, but the military isn’t ready to partner with any insurgents who “might end up being a future problem for us”.
Zainuddin, who broke with Mehsud in 2007, was estimated to have about 3,000 armed followers in the towns of Dera Ismail Khan and nearby Tank.

Although Zainuddin too had a ruthless past, he denounced Mehsud this month for recent attacks on mosques that killed clerics and civilians, bombings apparently in retaliation for the army offensive in the Swat valley.

Residents of South Waziristan are adopting a wait-and-see approach to the Pakistani military operation, reluctant to show outright support for an army they worry will not complete the job.

“You have to know that among the tribes we will follow whoever is the strongest,” said the tribal leader. A shura, or council of elders, for the Mehsud tribe was held on June 16, but the tribal leaders, who had previously endorsed Mehsud, broke up without any decision except to meet again.

In an agreement four months ago, Baitullah had closed ranks with powerful Taliban leaders - Maulvi Naseer in South Waziristan and Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan. Both men have battle-hardened troops, in contrast to the weaker mutineers, and could prove a more difficult opponent for the Pakistan Army.

While the agreement is holding, there are reports that neither Naseer nor Bahadar is ready to send his fighters to Mehsud’s aid for fear that they might be hit by US drones patrolling the tribal regions. ap daily times 25-6-09

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


From the "News" of Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zafar Hilaly

The army is fast acquiring a credibility problem with its claims of dead, injured and captured Taliban. At first there were mere mutterings, sotto voce suspicions, that not all is as claimed. These doubts are increasing; the chorus of suspicion is more voluble and before they acquire the dimensions of a scream the Army had better attend to it.

The pleasant and able and composed DG, ISPR in fact alluded to these suspicions on June 22 when he said that the army had not wanted to show pictures of the dead lest the public become upset but, presumably, in response to public demand, he showed 54 pictures of dead Taliban. All of whom appeared very much as one would expect those killed in battle. I doubt if anyone was upset by those images. Actually, for Pakistanis fed on a rich diet of Taliban videos showing gory executions of soldiers, with the sound on, they were rather tame. In fact most watching probably relished seeing their tormentors dead.

Noticeably, there were no photos of injured Taliban and only a desultory few of those claimed to have been captured have ever been shown on TV. In contrast the Taliban paraded their victims, allowed interviews and generally made a great show about their capture and their own prowess. Of course, it was done with the aim of terrorising the populace just as for the army to show their captives in all poses would hopefully also terrorise the enemy.

Some Taliban practices may be worth adopting because photos of a mere 54 dead while claiming that the actual number is 2000 do not wash. Especially as not a single one of the first tier leaders has been killed, wounded or captured and rumours are circulating that the Taliban leadership have been evacuated away from the danger zone, along with Al Qaeda leaders to Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan and would return in due course.

Pakistanis are a suspicious lot when it comes to evaluating official claims, perhaps because they tend to deceive even when it is easier to tell the truth; or because they have learnt from experience that "official speak" is invariably wrong or comes with a spin; or because the claims are so fatuous as to defy credulity. For example, after every air strike the number of dead militants ranges from six to 14 militants, seldom more.
All of them are supposed to be insurgents, rarely civilians, presumably because, unlike the Americans, we have very discriminating "Taliban seeking" missiles. Considering the difficult terrain and the risk to be incurred by the usually "reliable" sources reaching the site of the bombing it is remarkable how quickly the numbers of dead and injured are counted, processed and reported in the press the next day. Whoever does such an efficient job should be asked to lead our flaying attempts to cope with the IDPs problem.

It was also revealing that the BBC correspondent who was taken on a tour of the battle zone, he termed it "bandit country," said that while he was shown a half dozen or so of "captured Taliban" he saw none of the 2000 dead nor any graves or other signs of death. Instead BBC viewers last night got to see what the Taliban had allowed him to film which was the hanging corpse of a beheaded soldier and another who had been killed, with boastful Taliban standing nearby. Clearly there is something wrong with the optics of this war as far as Pakistan is concerned.

Of much greater concern was a news report carried in Dawn of 23 June entitled "Efforts on for patch- up between Darra Taliban, Adezai lashkar," which states that "Some "invisible" forces( normally a euphemism for we know who) are out to narrow the differences and broker an understanding between the Darra Adam Khel-based Taliban and leaders of the Qaumi Lashkar of Adezai on the outskirts of the provincial capital – the Taliban conditions included that their men would freely move in parts of Peshawar and would take action against those found involved in 'un-Islamic' activities and the Lashkar would not object to their actions. Secondly, the Taliban want the lashkar not to create hurdles while they recruit new members. Another condition of the Taliban is that the lashkar will not support security forces in case of any clash between the Taliban and law enforcing agencies."

Apparently two rounds of negotiations have already been held and members of the "Tableeghii Jamaat were active to broker an understanding between the two sides". When the local police chief was asked about these negotiations he denied all knowledge of them. Both are probably telling the truth. The left hand in Pakistan often does not know what the right hand is doing. Or the left side of the mouth, in the case of the Interior Minister, who claimed that Fazlullah had been "trapped," does not have a clue what the right side, which denied he had made any such statement, is saying.

Such reports, if true, damage the sincerity of the army's efforts and rob its actions and claims of credibility. It is difficult to believe that even while the army is engaged in fighting and dying in Swat another arm of government is negotiating deals with the same blood thirsty foe of murderers, kidnappers and drug peddlars. The report further negates the claim of the Tableeghi Jamaat that it is a purely religious organisation rather than one with a political agenda, as many have long suspected. (I recall being summoned to the Yemeni Foreign Office in 1988 and being asked why the Tableeqi Jamaat chose Yemen to spread the word of Islam. In the words of the Yemeni official: "Excellency, this is our religion, we gave it to you, please don't try and teach us the proper Islam. Ask them to go somewhere else. Or do they have some other agenda.")

Mr Zardari has written a column in the Washington Post emphasising that democracy and democracy alone is the panacea for Pakistan's problems. Unfortunately many of his countrymen are not so certain. Pakistanis are as sceptical about democracy as they are about dictatorship. Both have failed to deliver. Both speak with forked tongues. Similarly, Mr Zardari has claimed that he will fight terrorism to the bitter end. "Fight" should be the operative word and not "negotiate" deals of the sort being hustled in Peshawar.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:

Saturday, June 6, 2009


June 07, 2009

ISPR says Army to stay in troubled areas for indefinite period

Fazlullah targeted thrice

Success incomplete without elimination of top leadership

By Muhammad Anis

ISLAMABAD: Two close aides of Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad were killed in Sakhakot on Saturday when they were travelling in the custody of security forces.“A prisoners’ van was carrying Naib Amir of the TNSM Maulana Muhammad Alam and spokesman Amir Izzat from Malakand to Peshawar when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded,” military spokesman and DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas told newsmen at a media briefing here on Saturday.

He said the van was attacked at 5.10am with an improvised explosive device (IED) in Sakhakot followed by intense firing by the terrorists, killing the TNSM leaders and a junior commissioned officer while leaving five security personnel injured.

It may be mentioned that the TNSM leaders had been arrested during a raid in Amandara, Malakand, on Thursday.To a question about appropriate security arrangements for the convoy, he said security forces were operating in a battle zone where such attacks were an everyday happening. “I cannot say if the TNSM leaders were targeted,” he said.

To another question about the possibility of a military or judicial inquiry into the incident to clear any doubt, he said a decision to this effect could be taken by the competent authority.He said the third leader of the TNSM, Maulana Wahab, was still in the custody of security forces.

He said TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad had neither been arrested nor was under the custody of security forces.

The Army, he said, would stay in Swat and adjoining areas for an indefinite period. “The Army would stay in the area till a sense of security among the people is revived, a credible defence system by the law enforcement agencies, including police, is put in place and the possibility of the terrorists hiding in mountains coming back to launch a second phase of insurgency is obviated,” General Athar Abbas said, adding: “This would not take less than a year.”

He said the proposal to establish a cantonment in the area was also on the table, but a final decision was to be taken by the government.About the settlement of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) being discussed by the civil and military leadership, he said the military operation only brings temporary stability and arrangements were necessary for permanent stability, including revival of the civic amenities before the return of the IDPs.

He said the resettlement plan was being worked out, envisaging enhancement of capacity of the law-enforcement agencies and increasing the strength of the police. “On the heels of the military operation, we would like an administrative follow-up. It would need work on a war-footing,” he remarked.

General Athar Abbas said 100 per cent success in unconventional wars could not be achieved in a short spell of time. He pointed out that the valley could not be completely sealed and the miscreants currently hiding may regroup and resume terrorist activities.

Answering a question, he said so far no decision had been taken to launch an operation in South Waziristan. He, however, said the Army would go there if the government so decided.He said the success would be incomplete without eliminating the top leadership of the militants. He said Swat Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah had been targeted thrice by security forces. He, however, said no authentic information on his condition was available.

Replying to a question, he said he had not seen the press conference addressed by Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesman, threatening terrorist attacks on small towns across the country. He, however, said he would call it an intelligence failure if he spoke at a press conference with a lot of mikes around him.

He said around 40 would-be suicide bombers had so far been killed and apprehended in and outside the operation area. Around 1,305 terrorists had been killed since the launch of the operation Rah-e-Rast while 120, including foreign nationals, had been apprehended, he added. Some 105 security personnel had so far laid down their lives while 306 were injured, many of them seriously, he added.

Giving an update on the operation, he said 17 terrorists had been killed during the last 24 hours while four soldiers laid down their lives. He said security forces successfully cleared Kuza Bandai, Bara Bandai and Gora Ghat, establishing two check-posts in Kuza Bandai and one in Gora Ghat. Security forces killed 17 terrorists and recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition during a search and destroy operation in Sarsenai area. One soldier was also killed.

Asked if the recent terrorist attack in Lahore had a link to the ongoing operation and whether or not any foreign hand was involved, he said an inquiry into the incident was under way and it would be inappropriate to offer any comment at this stage.In Puran-Chakesar valley, security forces have established a link up to Tawa and the area around Aloch. Besides, terrorists fired rockets and mortars at the security forces’ check-post in Khwazakhela from Baidara, killing two soldiers and injuring one.

APP adds: General Athar Abbas said according to estimates, 3-4 per cent of the terrorists, who were either killed or apprehended, were foreign nationals like Arabs, Central Asians or Afghans.

He told a questioner that the top leadership of terrorists had been targeted time and again and unconfirmed reports of killing of two high-value targets were also received. “We cannot confirm the reports of killing of top leaders till the time we get material information.”He said a top terrorist leader was targeted thrice but he might have fled after sustaining injuries. However, he added that the technology constraint was the major reason for his escape. “We don’t have drone technology which keeps chasing the target — we do lack that technology,” he said.“We are carrying out this operation with indigenous resources and no foreign power had been assisting us in this unconventional type of battle,” he said.

Answering a question, he said that the PAF fighters were only used on as and when required basis to soften the targets by engaging ammunition dumps and logistic camps of the terrorists through laser guided technology.

As far as relief and support programme for the IDPs is concerned, he said, ration of four truckloads was distributed among persons of newly established camp at the Charsadda Sugar Mills. Around 600 families were provided food items in Bara Banda, Azakhel, Manki Sharif and Peshawar. Army troops also distributed seven truckloads ration in union councils Katlang, Roria Sare Balol, Tora, Patbaba and Achakzai.

Principal Information Officer Shabbir Anwar and a representative of the Special Support Group, Lt Col Wasim, were also present at the briefing.

Our Peshawar Bureau adds: Namaz-e-Janaza of the two leaders was offered at Amandara in Batkhela in which a large number of people participated. Tight security was put in place during the Namaz-e-Janaza to stave off any untoward incident.“About 60 Army soldiers besides Levies personnel had taken over the area,” a local told The News. The coffins of Alam and Izzat were not allowed to be taken to their homes.

An activist claimed the coffins were empty and insisted to open them to see the bodies. The coffin of Alam was opened, but the body was badly mutilated and he immediately closed it.

The activists of the TNSM were angry over the killing of the two senior leaders.After the killing of Kifayatullah, the eldest son of Sufi Muhammad, Maulana Alam and Izzat, two close aides, Sufi Muhammad has gone underground.

Amir Izzat Khan, the TNSM spokesman, had reportedly given up his job as a teacher in the Government Middle School in Swat’s Sherpalam village last year to work full time for his organisation.Though he had formally joined Maulana Sufi Mohammad’s TNSM in 1993, he was made its spokesman last year when the organisation set up a peace camp in Timergara, headquarters of Lower Dir, to press the acceptance of its demand of enforcement of Shariah in the Malakand Division.

Maulana Muhammad Alam, the 46-year-old deputy leader of TNSM, belonged to Shangla district. He was born in Shahpur village and had received his early education in a local Madrassa.A long-time associate of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, he joined the TNSM in 1993. He was first made head of TNSM in the Malakand Division, then the divisional chief and finally the central deputy leader.NEWS 7-6-09

Monday, June 1, 2009


Ram Takht (Ram’s throne):

Ram Takht is one of the sacred places in Hinduism. It is only second to Amarnath Cave regarding its sacredness and sanctity. Ram Takht is situated on the top of Mount Elum at an altitude of 9200 feet above sea level. This point is called Jogyano Sar(yogi peak).The dune of Barikot which is also famous for its sacred ruins is visible from here towards the North-West.

The Hindus believe that Ram Chandra Jee Maharajah spent three years of his Banr Bass (jungle life) here. The Hindu pilgrims visit this place once a year in first day of Sawan, to pray, worship and seek unity with Almighty. A holy spring flows near Ram Takht where most of the yogis came to seek union with the divine entity.

The ruins at Jogyano Sar clearly manifest that it was a hub of religious activities in the past where yogis resided in monasteries with austerity to meditate and contemplate on nature and its Creator. The vagaries of time have taken its toll and destroyed the places of worship today but some people say that all the monasteries were razed to the ground by the first ruler of Swat.

Ram Takht has also been demolished by treasure hunters in the hope of acquiring ancient treasures. Toorda Pacha whose family has resided here since time immemorial says that one of the yogis was killed by a nomad in the hope acquiring wealth. Later the nomad lost his sanity and his whole family disappeared mysteriously from the place.

Ram Takht can be accessed through different routes of Karakar, Char, Dokada, Bezo Sar, Amlokdara and Murghazar. One can reach the place in five hours from Murghazar easily. Several cool streams adore the way while most of the dense forest has been chopped down by timber mafia. The way is well treaded and there is no fear of straying away. The exotic valley of Swat and the holy district of Buner are the spectacular panoramas visible from Ram Takht.

Mount Elum has a profound spiritual and holy past. The famous saints Peer Baba and Durrani Baba had visited this place, worshipped and meditated here. Today they are in their eternal slumber in the lap of Mount Elum.
By Naveed Hussain, Lecturer in English


A.Stein in the Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India first mentioned the site of Gumbatuna in 1930. Berger and Wright who carried out some small-scale excavation (Berger et al. 1941). Professor G. Tucci followed it in 1955-56.


The site of Gumbatuna (Gumbatuna is the plural form of “Gumbat”, the Pashto word for “dome”) is a Buddhist establishment situated on the right bank of the river Swat, 6km west of Barikot village along the metalled road leading towards Nimogram in a wide valley. The valley is broadly drained by the Swat river which flows in several braided channels through the area. The archaeological remains are scattered over a range of 1500 meters north to south and 1000 meters east to west in wides terraced fields sloping unto the hills behind, known as Shamozai range. A spring is located in the picturesque gully, north of the sacred area.


The excavation of the first season was limited only to the terraces, which comprise the huge main stupa, and the votive stupas partially uncovered by the treasure hunters. The middle terrace is composed of circular monastery now occupied by the modern village of Gmbatuna. The upper terrace is composed of different group of monastic settlements, caves, viharas and stupas.

Main Stupa:

The lower zone comprises the main stupa encompassed by the votive stupa and columns bounded by the enclosure wall.

The main stupa stands on a square plinth measuring 17m each side with an offset projection 3.71m long by 3.82m wide for step on the east. The huge stupa is probably the best preserved in ancient Udyana consisting of a dome, upper and three lower drums, resting on a square podium and scole. The structure above the dome comprises harmika and umbrellas, which are now missing.

The stupa is square in plan and consists of base bounding in straight Scotia pattern (H.O 50cm). The podium or the square plinth stands to a height of 3.90m from the top of the base moulding. The top of the plinth is paved with slabs of schist from which project a corine (H. 0.35cm) built in corbelling fashion.

The pradakshina patha around the drum is paved with large stone slabs of schist of various size, from 0.20cm to 0.60cm (in width).
Around the base of the first drum at the four corners the square bases of columns are still preserved indicating that once the stupa was decorated with four columns. Such decorative elements were also noticed at the stupas of Saidu, Najigram and Amlukdara in Swat valley.

The drums of the stupa is cylindrical in shape measuring 04.70m in height. The drum is surmounted by a hemispherical shaped dome (height 04.80m) and 10m in diameter. It is cut all through from the east and a shaft 2m wide sunk down the centre from the top by relic hunters. The stupa is ascended by a flight of twelve steps on the east side leading to the top of the podium. A circumambulation path of schist stone was provided around the base moulding of the stupa plinth. The masonry of the main stupas is executed in diaper.

Architectural remains of votive Stupas

The main stupa was surrounded by 27 votive stupas of different sizes, square in plan, all composed in the styles of diaper masonry. The floor around these stupas was paved with slabs of schist stone. The upper parts of the votive stupa are missing except votive stupa No.16 and 27 which exist up to the drum. The facing of the plinth built in diaper style in plain in case of some stupas, while stupa numbers 14, 15 and decorated with Corinthian pilasters.

Finds and chronology

The excavations at Gumbatuna were limited to the northern, southern and western sides. The area in front of the main stupa has yet to be excavated in order to complete the salvage operation at the site. The excavations were limited, as also the sculpture robbers had disturbed the site and removed the antiquities, although a good number of sculptures and an impressive stupa complex were uncovered. These sculptures include Buddda, Bodhisattvas, architectural elements in stone and stucco. The site has yielded no coins which could have helped in providing clue to absolute dating. Nonetheless, the sculptures in stone, stucco and the diaper masonry seem to belong to the early Kushana era. Therefore, it seems probable that the Gumbatuna site flourished during the 2nd century A.D. and lasted until the 7th-8th century A.D. (


The huge image of a seated Buddha carved into a high rock face of reddish colour that rises on the hillside to the southwest of Janabad (Shakhorai) village. It is situated at a distance of 5km to the N-E of Manglawar. This huge image of the Buddha can also be visible from the road, on the right side when one is on the way to Malamjaba.


Due to its high position above the narrow terrace, it is well preserved except the nose seems to have been damaged by the vandals. The Buddha figure is about 7 meters in height and is certainly the most impressive piece of sculpture to be seen in Gandahara region.

This excellent figure of the Buddha is seated on a high throne in the attitude of mediation. The snail shell curls of this Buddha are very carefully rendered. His eyes are more than half closed, there is a prominent Ushnisha and long ear lobes. The folds of the robe are stringy, with a planned alteration of high and low ridges. Though the figure exhibits the Gandahara style in the drapery with pleats and the hair, the rather solemn, powerful form of the torso and representation of the folds of the robe are in agreement with the usual form adopted in the area for the other figures of the Buddha.

Some scholars point to the strong influence of the western style but such similarities are not so close. Hence the image of the Buddha carved on the rock at Jehanabad may probably be dated to the 7-8th century A.D, when a large number of other rock-carvings of similar workmanship in Swat are dated to the later centuries of the 1st millennium A.D.

It may be stated that a vast number of Buddhist images in ancient Udyana were destroyed by the people in ignorance and there remains a small number of such rock carvings to be now seen. The few figures that have survived in the valley over the centuries should be preserved from the cruel hands of vandals and must be shifted to the museum for security and preservation. It is fear that such beautiful carved images shall perish into oblivion, and posterity will be deprived the cultural heritage of the past times.(


The colossal statue of Buddha lies near the village of Ghaligay some 18km away from Mingawara at the foot of rocky slopes, on the left side of the main road leading to Mardan. The Buddha facing west is situated about 1km from the left bank of the river Swat.


This statue is carved on the live rock of the hillside in the heart of the Swat valley. It is one of the hundreds of monumental stone carving Buddhas that witnessed the glorious past of people of Swat, the ancient Udyana
Unfortunately, this statue sustained some damages caused by the ignorant human hands in the process of touching and scratching which also coupled partially with the weathering effect. However, the lower part of the body is still in good state of preservation. The upper part of the statue is much defaced, and only traces of the head and the halo behind it are visible.

The graceful statue is 04m in height and seems to be enlarged size of a typical Gandahara Buddha.

It is carved out of the marble stone cliff; and seated on a high throne in meditation pose. The carved statue with its drapy arranged in string like folds, which cover the body and throne. It corresponds to the late phases of Gandahara sculpture (7th-8th century A.D). (


The Buddhist site of Tokar-dara is situated about 5km on the south of Barikot on the way to Karakar pass and lies about 1km from the modern village of Najigram at the mouth of a small picturesque valley.

Archaeological Remains:

E.Barger and P.Wright wrote:”An experimentally clearance of the western side of the stupa produced a few extremely battered stone carvings, and portions of the fallen umbrella of the stupa”. After small excavation on the site by Barger and Wright, the treasure hunters robbed the site. The architectural remains of the Buddhist stupa and monastery are spreading over a range of 228m north and south 206m east and west.
The site consists of a large stupa, the associated monastery, living quarters, assembly hall, and an aqueduct cave, two other stupas badly damaged and several unidentified remains.

Main Stupa:

The Large Stupa is probably the best preserved in this area.It consists of a hemispherical dome, upper and lower drums resting on a square podium and socle. The stupa court is 32m long to south-north and 72m east-west, fortified by a wall. The main stupa was surrounded by the votive stupas which have been completely destroyed by unauthorized diggers. Faint traces of the votive stupa can still be seen.

The stupa stands to a height of 15m from the ground level and the square plinth of the stupa is measuring 22x22m. Seven steps of a staircase in the middle which is 05.50m in width on the west side, lead to the top of the podium. The main stupa had originally four columns at the four corners of the berm of the square storey, which is indeed a peculiar feature; Such style of structural composition may be seen in the main stupas of Saidu and Gumbatuna. The exterior of the stupa is executed in diaper pattern originally covered by the coating of lime plaster.

The drum of dome which measures 10.67m in diameter, is decorated with two cornices framed as usual by thin vertical slabs of stone projecting at intervals between horizontal courses.

The stupa had already been dug out at the centre from the top in search of antiquities by the robbers which damaged the stupa structure and the surface finds.

Above the stupa and at a distance of 12m from the southern side of its lowest base, there rises a large walled terrace, measuring 53x53m, containing extensive remains of a monastic quadrangle.


This monastery is rectangular in plan, with its major axis running south-north. It has two entrances: one on the north leading to the main stupa and another on the south leading to an assembly hall. There are six domed cells, square in shape, measuring 03.35m which occupy each side of the Complex. Some of the cells still reserved the vaulted roof. There are ventilators and small niches in each cells for keeping statues or lamps.

Assembly Hall:

Near the south-western corner of the monastery court, there are the high walls of a big hall probably used as an assembly hall for the Buddhist community, measuring 16x15m and 06m height from the ground level. To the east the assembly hall, lie the remains of another ruined stupa enclosed by walls on three sides. The stupa depicts a square plinth measuring 13.71x13.71m with base moulding and stands square to a height of 04.26m. The stupa is ascended by flight of steps with 04.26m width from the north. The stupa is built in large dressed slabs of stones. The stupas were originally graced with Corinthian pilasters, traces of which can still be seen. Ruins of isolated cells lie on the slope of the valley against the rock.


On the eastern side of the glen, about 45m above the monastic quandrangle, lies a cave with its high entrance which is blocked about half of its height by a wall. This cave was probably used by the monks for meditation.


In the area along the streamlet, are the remains of an aqueduct for the purpose of bringing water for domestic use, ablution and also for irrigation purpose.

Below the aqueduct, there are the remains of another ruined stupa about 1.82m in height.. (


Shahkot Pass, lying between the Mura Pass on the East and the Malakand Pass on the West, is an enchanting valley, on the North-East lie vast plains and a small hamlet, Shahkot Banda, with numerous Buddhist settlements, on the South-West is located the famous Hathi Darra, or the Elephant Paw, near village Zalam Kot, about 10 miles from village Thanra , on the main road leading to Swat.

A Buddhist road, about 20 feet wide and meandering 6 miles across the mountain, joining both sides of the pass, was magnificently constructed for the elephant caravan of a ruler of the Kushan period. This ancient road, which came to be known as "The Elephant Paw", and the famous Queen's throne on top of a hillock near Hathi Darra, are a feast for the eye and can be developed into an excellent tourist resort.

The seven-storied structure of the Queen's throne is made with neatly chiseled huge slabs of granite. Though people have dug deep pits in and around this structure, the throne itself is fairly intact and exists in its pristine form. A massive surrounding wall in a radius of 500 meters fortified the throne. A large number of chipping from earthenware strewing the mountain slopes indicate that clay pipes had been laid out for supply of water from a fountain above to the people inhabiting downhill. This whole set-up suggests that here once existed a well-fortified and well-engineered town of the Kushana period. Artifacts like coins, household utensils, beads, bangles, and pottery of all types, with geometrical and floral designs, are found in abundance.

The retaining walls on the mountain slopes, which present a thrilling, sight, run down to the valley below and stretch from Shahkot plains to the village of Palai.

The history of this area dates back to the 4th century B C. When Alexander the Great crossed River Swat at Chakdara and subdued the local residents. Thence forward this area remained under the administrative control of the Greeks for about 20 years which made a great impact on the Socio- Economic life of the local population. In 308 B.C., the great and powerful Maurayan ruler, Ashoka, held sway over this area. He was an ardent and passionate follower of Buddhism. He greatly serve the cause of Buddhism by channeling all his energy and resources for the dissemination of the Buddhist doctrine, with the result that Buddhism struck roots among the local residents. During his reign, a very large number of stupas and monasteries were established in this area. However, with the death of the great Ashoka in 232 B.C., his dynasty began to decline. Later, Bactrus Greek Demetrius invaded and conquered this region. The Sythinans who established their rule in the area followed him, but they were themselves routed and driven out of this region by the Parthian Condo Pares in 35 A.D. The Parthians met with a similar fate at the hands of a tribe called Kushans, in the year 60 A.D.

Kanishka, a renowned and powerful ruler of the Kushana stock, patronized Buddhism, with the result that Buddhist culture and religion reached their zenith in his area. During his reign, a large number of stupas and monasteries were set up every where and Buddhist philosophy of the Hinanayan school of thought flourished not only inside Gandahara but outside it as well. The Kushan dynasty was overthrown by king Shahpur of Persia in 241 A.D. and the Kushan Kidara submitted to the military might of the Persian potentate. In the 5th century A.D. the white Huns, a barbaric tribe from Central Asia, invaded this region. They ransacked the entire area and destroyed the stupas and the sacred monasteries. This tolled the death knell for Buddhism in this region. Subsequently, a new philosophy of Buddhism, called vijrayana, was introduced in this region. Vijrayana, which was different from the Hinayanian philosophy of Buddhism, was mostly based on magic incantations and rituals.

In the 9th century A.D., when Hindu Shahi conquered this land, the Buddhists were forced to flee this area and take refuge in the distant mountains of the North. The forces of Mahmud of Ghazna subdued raja Gira, the last king of Hindu Shahi, in the early 11th century A.D.
The Elephant Paw and the Queen's Throne are valuable relics of the past. But, it is regretted that no attempt has been made by any government in Pakistan to either excavate it or preserve it from further decay.
Courtesy: Fazal Wahid khan of Thanra, Lower Swat valley.(


The stupa of Amlukdara is situated about 2km on the north of Nawagai village in the beautiful small valley of Amlokdara, on the main road to Buneer.One is required to walk about 1km through the village in order to reach the site.


The high stupa stands prominently visible from the surrounding area, naturally sheltered by the great Mount Elum. The stupa is raised on a magnificent square plinth with base moulding in torus and Scotia pattern, measures 34 meters in diameter. The height of the square shape base plinth is about 4 meters.

On the high square plinth rests a three tiered drum in cylindrical form measuring 9 meters leaving an approx. 5 meters wide ambulatory. The stupa is further surmounted by a hemispherical dome measuring 7m in height. The drum on which the hemispherical dome rests has a diameter of 21m, probably being the largest in the Ilam valley. The drum is divided by a bold cornice supported by brackets at intervals of 0.30cm. A second cornice projecting farther runs below the bottom course of the dome. The height of the stupa from the floor level on the ground up to the existing top of the dome measures 20 meters. The stupa has a flight of ascending step on the north, which is 04.26m wide connecting the pradakshina patha on the ground level with the ambulatory passage on the top of the plinth. The pradakshina patha on the top of the plinth is approached by another step 03.65m wide which leads to the third pradakishna patha. It is only here that a hole measuring 04.57m deep was dug in the drum to reach the relic chamber. The entire stupa building from base to the top shows a remarkable fine, semi-ashler masonry, preserving good stretches of the architectural decoration, typical of the Gandahara valley during the period Kushanas.

The semi-ashler facing was originally covered by a coating of stucco plaster, traces of which are still observed at some places. The podium and lower drum are decorated by Corinthian columns of small dark stones. On the eastern side of the stupa podium lie in heap four stone “Umbrellas”, once raised above the dome and now fallen over the year. The largest of them measures 04m, the smallest 1.82m in dia and 30 cm in thickness.

On the eastern and northern side of the main stupa, the ruins of the monastery, stupas and miscellaneous remains can still be seen. They are mostly disturbed by the illegal diggers. Stein recorded a number of coins from the Kushanas to the Turki Shahis dating from the 2nd to 7th century A.D.

The site was investigated by Barger and Wright in 1938. They recovered some Gandahara sculptures but did not investigate further to ascertain the exact period of the site.

Stein says, “the Amluk-dara lies on the route followed by the Hindus of lower Swat on their annual visit to the sacred height of Mount Elum, which forms so striking a background to the ruined stupa. The top of the mountain was an object of pious pilgrimage already in Buddhist times, and may well have been connected in some way with the pious legends which once clustered around it and in a modified form have lingered to the present day” (1930).

The stupa with its separate components of socle, podium, drum, and dome is the best example in Swat.

The stupa of Amlokdara is exposed to The treasure hunters have badly damaged the Stupa.The concern department should notice it, if they neglect the damages the stupa has received so for, the coming generation will not see this magnificent monument of glorious past. The time is appropriate to excavate the site at Amluk-dara stupa in order to protect the monuments and the hidden antiquities from the clandestine activities of unauthorized diggers. (


The Buddhist site of Nemogram is situated about 45 km west of Saidu Sharif and about 22 km from Birkot,on the right bank of Swat river in sub valley of Shamozai.This site was discovered in 1966 and excavated in 1967-68.

The Site:

The site consists of three main stupas in row from north to south with a courtyard of 56 votive stupas and the adjoining monastery on the west of the main stupas.At the present state of infor m ation collected during the excavations, it is difficult to give a definite date to the monuments at Nemogram. Nevertheless,the decovrey of a few coins of Kushana period, the site may be dated to the 2nd–3rd century A.D. Apart from the coins and pottery of Scytho-Parthian period,a large number of stone ,stucco sculptures depict various scences of Buddhist mythology.These sculptures are on display in Swat museum.


The Shingardar stupa was identified by Colonel Deane and S.A Stein with the famous stupa built by King Uttarasena on the spot where the white elephant that carried the King’s share of the relics of the Buddha halted. When he had arrived at this spot the elephant suddenly dropped down and, dying, changed himself into a rock . By the side of this rock the King at once erected this stupa. This myth of the stupa is derived from a local tradition (Deane, 1886,Stein, 1930). The tradition is preserved by Hieum Stang who visited Swat in the 7th century A.D.It is said that when the elephant reached this spot with the relics of Buddha on its back, his body miraculously turned into stone after dying at this spot. It is further claimed that the hilly ridge opposite the great stupa on the north depicts a faint figure on it, visible only to the pious eye. G.Tucci, does not agree with the identification, and says that this stupa was not erected by the King Uttarasena.He places the stupa of the legend some where near the Naway kaliay about 500 meters to the north of Kota village. The controversy about the transportation of Uttarasena’s share of the relics of the Buddha to Swat on elephant back and transforming of the animal’s body into stone needs further investigation and research.

Structural Features of the Stupa:

Originally the plinth of the stupa was square in plan, but the inhabitants of the village removed the well-dressed facing stone and also the great portion of the interior masonry around the podium,for construction of their houses and road.

The stupa consist of lower drum decorated with two cornice, upper drum and a dome measuring 12m.The total height of the stupa from dome to the existing base is 27m.

The masonry comprise large dressed slabs of white stone separated by small columns of dark slatey pieces, and narrow horizontal packing between the courses.

Some traces of stucco plaster on the drum are still visible.

The lower drum measuring 04.87m is garnished with slightly projected pilasters with an bearing rather flat brackets.

The cornice above the lower drum is 0.60m high and comprise a plain course of slabs and above this a projected part built in thin slabs which are set vertically on their shorter edge.

The upper cornice is marked by a shallow recess about 0.50m high producing a light and shade effect. Antiquities robbers cut the stupa dome on the northwestern side, common practice in this area. On the eastern and southern sides of the stupa about 15 meters from the base, traces of Buddhist settlement can be seen, now occupied by the modern houses.

The masonry of these latter structures is very rough and probably belongs to a monastery complex. Due to the importance of thus imposing stupa, the excavation at this site as stated earlier, becomes imperative for the protection (


The Buddhist sacred precint of Buutkara identified as the monestry of Ta-Lo, mentioned by Sung Yun (520 AD) visited and described by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims of the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries AC lies at the eastern end of the ancient capital of Udyana Meng-Chich-Li, present Mingawara. The main Stupa stand in the middle, around it are crowded monuments Stupas, Viharas and columns, on the Northern side stands a great building and further to the north and west the inhabited area. The Great Stupa under event five reconstruction, each new one incasing the oldery from 3rd century B.C down to 10th century A.D. (


Swat or Udyana as it is in the Sanskrit sources, is a valley in the mountainous region to the north of the Peshawar Plain, at the foot of the mountain range connecting the Hindu Kush with Karakorum; it includes the main valley of the upper course of the River Swat, for a length of about 200 Km from the source as far as the gullies through which the river flows down to the plain, and the lateral valleys of its tributaries. The valley conquered by Alexander the great in 327 B C, and over the following centuries by the Indo-Greek, Saka, Parthian, Kushan, Sasanid and Hephthalite kings, was a prosperous region. It constituted a trading center between the plains of Gandahara and the mountains of the northern areas looking towards Central Asia, and at the same time a great Center of Buddhist culture with an ample scattering of Buddhist monasteries, representing an important stopover on the way to the holy places of Buddhism, traversed by numerous Chinese pilgrims (including Faxian in the 5th century A.D., Sangyun in the 6th, Xuanzang in the 7th and Huizhao in the 8th).

By virtue of its position open to the Iranian world, Swat was always characterized by the powerful influence that the local-Dardic-Substratum exercised over Buddhism, to the extent that it became a center for the formulation and dissemination of esoteric doctrines merging into the “Diamond Vehicle” (Vajroyana) tradition. As commercial traffic increased between the Tarim basin, in modern-day Chinese Xinjiang, and the Indian ports through Karakarum, Swat found itself at the point where these routs issued into the plain of Gandahara, thus becoming a place of transit not only for goods but also ideas- a role it maintained even after the economic decline that marked the late 6th and early 7th century A.D.
It was in fact from region that Padmasambhaua, the moving force of Tibetan Buddhism, set out in the 8th century, and it was indeed the suggestive accounts of this “holy land” of Buddhism contained in the Tibetan texts that brought Guiseppe Tucci in the Swat Valley in 1955.
Buddhist Shrines In Swat

A fairly large number of Buddhist sites preserving stupas, monasteries, viharas, settlements, caves, rock-carvings and inscriptions are scattered all over the Swat Valley. This heritage of immense interest may be seen both in plains and in the hilly tracts. Fa-Hein, who came to Swat in 4th century A.D, wrote about 6000 monasteries in the valley. The report of Sung-Yun, who visited the enchanting valley in the 6th century A.D, saw 6000 images in the sacred monastery of Talo (Butkara). The most famous of all the Chinese pilgrims, Hsuan-Tsang who graced the valley by his presence in the 7th century A.D, mentioned 1400 monasteries in Swat, which eloquently confirmed the extensive remains of the Buddhist period.

Even today over 400 Buddhist stupas and monasteries may still be seen in ruins in Swat covering an area of about 160 square km.
The Buddhists built mostly their stupas and monasteries higher on the hills with the aim that agricultural economy may not suffer and also to provide a sort of protection and security to them from the invaders.(


The lush green and historic Swat Valley lies between 34°-40′ to 35° N latitude and 72′ to 74°-6′ E longitude and is part of the Provincially Administrated Tribal Area (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. The valley is an integral part of the strategic and significant region where three parts of the Asian continent–South Asia, Central Asia and China, meet.

The names found in ancient sources for Swat are Udyana and Suvastu because of the scenic beauty of the valley and the name of the river respectively.The historical and cultural remains of the area provide evidence about human activities covering a large span of time.
Alexander the Great came here in 327 BC en route India and conquered Bazira and Ora. At his departure the inhabitants of the area threw off Greek yoke, and enjoyed either independent or semi-independent status subsequently. In the meantime Buddhism penetrated here and Swat became center of Buddhist/Gandhara civilization. The Turki Shahis incorporated Swat in their kingdom but at the decline of their power it remained exposed to Hindu Shahis’ influence.

In early tenth century CE/AD, the Muslims occupied Swat. Consequently, Afghans from different tribes, commonly called Swati Pukhtun, came and settled here. They remained independent of the neighboring powers.

The Yusufzais conquered Swat in the first quarter of the sixteenth century and emerged and remained dominant segment. Instead of forming a government they lived in the tribal fashion, divided into two dalas (factions) headed by their own tribal chiefs called Khans and Malaks. The Swat Yusufzai enjoyed freedom and neither had paid taxes to Delhi or Kabul not yielded obedience to any foreign law or administrative system. They fought Akbar's mighty arms for years and incurred great losses over them.

The people of Swat not only fought the British in the historic battle of Ambela in 1863 but frequently raided British controlled territories and provided asylum to anti-British elements. When British forces were sent against Umara Khan of Jandol to relieve their garrison in Chitral in 1895 the Swatis commanded all the three main passes leading to Swat: Morah, Shahkot and Malakand. In spite of tough resistance, the British, however, succeeded in making their way by a stratagem. They established garrisons at Malakand and Chakdara and created the Agency of Dir and Swat, commonly called Malakand Agency, in 1895 for protecting their strategic interests. Political Officer later Political Agent was posted in Malakand for dealing and communicating through him with the local states (Dir, Chitral and later Swat as well) and the tribes. The rulers and tribal chiefs in the Agency were paid subsidies for pro-British services and role. The Swatis, however, rose en mass in 1897 to oust the British from Malakand and Chakdara under the leadership of Sartor Faqir, but in vain.

The left-bank lower valley was brought under loose British control and protectorate in 1895, but the rest of the left-bank valley continued to enjoy independent status till the emergence of Swat State. The right-bank valley was, however, already made part of Dir State during the years 1879–1881 and hence remained part of Dir State since then but with the interval for the years 1907–1911. The Shamizai, Sebujni and Nikpi Khel sections, however, made common-cause and put an end to Dir’s authority over the area, in March 1915. They constituted five-member council to look after the affairs of their area and finally brought Abdul Jabber Shah from Sithana and installed him as king of Swat, 24 April 1915.

Abdul Jabbar Shah remained in power for more than two years, but on 2 September 1917 the jarga broke relations with him and asked him to go back. On his departure the jarga installed Miangul Abdul Wadud as the next king. He ruled till 1949 and extended and consolidated the state. He abdicated in favor of his son Miangul Abdul Haq Jahanzeb on 12 December 1949, with which Jahanzeb became the next ruler and ruled till the merger of the state in 1969.

During Abdul Wadud and Jahanzeb’s reign Swati territories forming part of Swat State enjoyed an amazing peace and development in the fields of education, health and communication . (


Speakers fear protracted war in conflict zone

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Islamabad- Speakers at a seminar cautioned of disastrous consequences of ongoing armed conflict and Talibanisation for the whole country and nation.Senior journalist Aqeel Yousufzai, columnist Saleem Saafi, Muhammad Amir Rana, Aimal Khan were addressing the launching ceremony of the book ‘Talibanisation: from Afghanistan, FATA, Swat to Pakistan’ followed by a panel discussion on “ Talibanization: from Afghanistan to Pakistan.”

The seminar was jointly organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday.They urged the government to abandon its policy of using ‘Taliban’ as strategic assets and declare them as a menace to country and nation. They also recommended the government to systematically deal with the challenge of increasing militancy and Talibanization, involving multiple sources of funding and support from countries like United States, Iran, Russia, China, Arab countries and Afghanistan due to their conflicting interests in the region.Aqeel Yousufzai, author of the book, believed that the ongoing conflict in Malakand division was the beginning of an indefinite war in the region involving multiple complexities including strengthening collaboration between al-Qaeda and Taliban. He said that Taliban would not be completely eliminated because they were pursuing al-Qaeda-like or pan-Islamist ideology, which they wanted to reinforce globally.He said that his book also unearthed the invisible harmonious relationship between Jihadis and intelligence agencies of Pakistan to pursue their hidden agenda in the region while making a differentiation between Afghani and Pakistani Taliban. He claimed that the Pakistani Taliban were more dangerous and disastrous and would spread all over the country if not dealt wisely.Salim Saafi said that the country would never be able to overcome the worsening challenge, which would eventually spread all over the country if the government did not succeed in finally ending this confusion whether Taliban were Pakistan's strategic assets or a menace.
The confusion also pertained to whether American's and Russian were our friends or foes, he further said. Giving several examples of dual role of the US, Russia, Iran, NATO, Arabs and others, he said that the region had become a 'safe haven' for a number of external and internal forces and everyone was involved in achieving its specific interests against the others. Taliban were strengthened at the cost people and future of this region, he said.


True Swat victory won’t be military

* Re-establishing local government and bringing police back to patrol streets is critical to holding Swat

ISLAMABAD: The military says it is close to beating the Taliban in the Swat Valley, but battlefield success alone does not equal victory: Taliban commanders are still on the run, local governments and police forces have been decimated and millions of residents are displaced from their homes.

In announcing Mingora's capture, army spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas acknowledged an unknown number of Taliban escaped.So far, no top commanders, including Swat Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah, are known to have been killed or captured. Some parts of the valley remain under Taliban control.

Re-establishing local government in the conflict-hit areas – most importantly bringing police back to patrol the streets – is critical to holding Swat once the army offensive ends. To do that well could take months, possibly years. For now, it appears the army and paramilitary forces will have to act as the police, which they were already trying to do in many parts of Swat before launching the offensive there and in surrounding districts a month ago.

For many of the three million internally displaced persons (IDPs), a return could mean finding a crushed home, prompting grievances against political leaders.Many may also find damaged businesses, furthering popular anger and also hampering efforts to jump-start the local economy in a region that was once a crown jewel of Pakistani tourism.

Pakistan has announced $100 million in federal aid to help the Swat IDPs while the UN is pleading with donors to come up with $543 million to ease what is one of the fastest and largest internal displacements in a country since Rwanda in 1994-95. Ordinary Pakistanis also have launched drives to help the IDPs, most of whom are staying with relatives or friends but some 200,000 are in camps.There also are plans in the works to beef up the police force in Swat, in part by hiring retired military officers.But timeframes are unclear, and the country's track record on post-conflict work is not inspiring.Before the latest offensive in Swat,
Pakistan waged a six-month fight against Taliban in Bajaur. Of up to 500,000 people displaced from Bajaur, some 230,000 have returned since the army declared victory there in February, only to find as many as 6,000 homes and shops destroyed or damaged, said political agent Shafirullah Jan said.An AP reporter recently saw tribal police and troops patrolling several Bajaur towns, but at least one area, Loyesam, is still having security problems three months after the Taliban were declared vanquished.Jan said the government was fixing some buildings and roads in Bajur's main town of Khar, and that foreign aid was part of that, but he had yet to see a comprehensive plan for reconstruction for an area that is far more needy than Swat.Swat may not be Pakistan's first attempt to dismantle the insurgency, but it cannot be its last, either. ap


31 killed in SWA clashes
Monday, June 01, 2009
By Mushtaq Yusufzai &
Irfan Burki

Twenty-five militants, including a senior commander of Baitullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Miraj Burki, and six soldiers were killed and several others injured in the deadly clashes between the militants and security forces in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA) tribal region on Sunday night.

Other reports said 13 soldiers were killed and over two dozens injured in the two deadly attacks. Fierce fighting between the militants and security forces forced thousands of the tribal families to leave their homes in the Mehsud-inhabited areas.

The latest clashes erupted with two different attacks on security post and a military convoy by the militants at Spinkai Raghzai and Tiarza areas of the restive region.In the first attack, which took place on the night between Saturday and Sunday, the militants opened fire on a security post located on hilltop in Spinkai Raghzai area.

According to sources, three soldiers were killed and six others seriously injured in the attack. Also, four soldiers went missing during the clashes and suspected to be kidnapped by the militants. There were reports that the militants beheaded them and threw their bodies in the mountains.
Military officials said though it was dark and the attack was unexpected, the soldiers retaliated and inflicted heavy losses on the Taliban fighters. Military spokesman, Maj Gen Athar Abbas, when reached by telephone, said 15 militants were killed when the troops fired back. Similarly, he said, several other militants were injured in retaliatory firing by the troops.

Similarly, three soldiers, including a lieutenant, were killed and some others injured in an ambush on a military convoy by Taliban near Tiarza on Saturday evening. The convoy was heading towards Tiarza from Shakai when came under attack.

The militants were not happy with the reinforcement of the security forces in the Mahsuds inhabited areas, which happen to be strongholds of the Baitullah-led militants. According to sources, commander Meraj Burki, who was a senior militant commander of Baitullah Mahsud-led TTP and his Shura member, had led dozens of fighters to ambush the military convoy.

The sources said it was well-organised attack organised by the 45-year old commander, Meraj, in which the militants fired on the convoy from various directions. The troops were reported to have suffered heavy losses and their vehicles damaged.

Military authorities said the troops retaliated and killed 10 militants. Tribal sources confirmed the killing of six militants in retaliatory firing by the security forces. Tribal elders in Tiarza said they received reports that commander Meraj had been killed in retaliatory firing by the troops. However, they said bodies of the slain commander and his five colleagues were in the custody of the security forces. Efforts were being made for receiving their bodies from the security forces.

Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said both the attacks came from the militants. He said the troops did not fire first and retaliated when came under attack by the terrorists. “The troops were there to consolidate their positions and had no offensive designs. No body can even prove that the soldiers had fired first,” the military spokesman argued.

Tribal sources said the security forces Sunday evening started heavy artillery shelling from FC camps in Jandola and Manzai towards suspected locations of the militants in Kotkai, Tiarza, Ladha, Makeen and Srarogha villages.

The militants attacked security forces at a time when a 15-member jirga of the Mahsud tribal elders and clerics was negotiating between the government and Baitullah Mahsud.Senator Saleh Shah, who is leading the jirga members in recent negotiations between the two sides, admitted that both the factions even agreed on ceasefire.

Asked would he and his jirga members now blame Taliban for violation of their ceasefire offer, Saleh Shah said though they were not happy over what happened in Waziristan, but the government had also committed violation and sent the troops to various places where the Taliban did not want them to be deployed.

He said the jirga would continue its efforts for restoration of peace and would leave for South Waziristan on Tuesday to hold talks with Baitullah Mahsud and his commanders for ensuring durable peace in the region.
The fighting caused mass exodus of the Mahsud tribespeople and many families were seen Sunday leaving their homes for safer places in Razmak, Bannu, Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.Though announced several times, the government is yet to set up camps for the internally displaced persons (IDPs) of South Waziristan Agency.

Majority of the fleeing tribespeople were reportedly taking shelters with their relatives, friends and even with strange people in the downtowns. AFP adds: “According to fresh reports we received from the site, more than 45 militants died,” Syed Ahmad, a police official in the tribal area, told AFP. Khan Badshah, another local official, confirmed that death toll and said the rebels had taken most of the bodies away for funeral rites. NEWS 1-6-09

Saturday, May 30, 2009


LAHORE: Military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas has said that “many of the Taliban’s arms are coming across the border from Afghanistan ... the US should stop worrying about Pakistan’s nukes and start worrying about the weapons lost in Afghanistan”, a private TV channel reported on Friday. In an interview with a foreign news channel, the ISPR director general said the current conflict in Swat was intricately linked to the situation in Afghanistan. He said that Swat was a political problem, which could only be partially solved by military intervention. He estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of the Taliban in the Swat valley and its adjacent areas were foreign fighters. He said Mingora could be secured in 48 hours, but it may be “much, much longer” before the area was totally pacified. He also said that there was “no plan, date or time for the launch of an offensive in South Waziristan”. daily times monitor 30-5-09


Are the Pakhtuns under siege?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rustam Shah Mohmand

In the nineteenth century they fought the British imperialists in a long-drawn-out war of attrition. In the twentieth century they were pitted against the might of another empire, the Soviet Union. In the 21st century, in yet another unequal contest, they are confronted by and fighting against the US empire.

To make matters worse, the Pakistani Pakhtoons are also under attack by the security forces of their own country.

The Pakhtoons, perhaps never before in their history, were going through an ordeal as awesome in its magnitude as in its cruelty.

In neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakhtoon villages are being systematically demolished, their men, women and children are dying every day like cattle or, worse still, like flies. It is a Pakhtoon genocide. Their economy is in ruins, their homes broken, their families shattered, their future uncertain and their present as bleak as it can get.

In the tribal areas they are being bombed and struck every second day with missiles, as if they are all enemies.

In Karachi, the biggest Pakhtoon city, they are periodically picked up and brutally killed, with no questions asked. Politics is more sacrosanct than the lives of ordinary mortals in the Land of the Pure.

The launching of the latest operation by the government smacks of the same hypocricy, double standards and lack of foresight that has characterised our policy formulation in the last 60 years.

From the word go, it appeared that the government was in no mood to implement the act it chose to extend, most reluctantly and after inexplicable delay.

The interregnum between the signing of the agreement and the approval of the president to sign Nizam-e-Adl into law was utilised for creating a hype, for painting a dreadful scenario of the implications of implementing the act. A deliberate mindset of phobia was created. It was not, for instance, explained to the people and to the world that the government is only re-enacting a law that was adopted by the governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

When there was no countrywide criticism of the act, then why was a storm being created now?

And when the law was extended finally there was a lukewarm attitude towards putting in place an infrastructure to implement the act. That was partly deliberate and partly reflected the incompetence of the authorities.
Just as the act was extended In 1994 and in 1999 and not allowed to take practical shape, it was presumed that the act would remain a document on paper and it would be business as usual.

This approach failed then, and it didn't quite work out this time.

It was not realised that merely calling a judge a qazi does not make him competent for administration of a totally different legal system.
The uncertainty produced serious doubts in the minds of the Nizam-e-Shariat and Taliban leaders.

But Maulana Sufi Mohammad stood steadfast in his support both to the government and to the newly enacted Law.

His cooperation with the government did not, unfortunately, translate into the cessation of hostilities. The government could have persisted with having him on board. It is a failure of skilful negotiations or a deliberate effort to deny the people the fruits of the new act.

The movement of some "Taliban" numbering about 25 riding in two vehicles from Swat to Buner was perhaps the turning point in the whole tragic episode.

Whether this movement was orchestrated or whether the Taliban in their naivety took their own senseless decision would remain to be seen.
But the fear of the Taliban taking control was so vociferously projected in the wake of two vehicles being driven into Buner by a few disorganised youths that it seemed like a deliberate move to create justification for a strong government intervention.

Strangely, the implications of such a stupendous operations were overlooked. And then there was inexplicable and heavy reliance on air action--use of aircraft and gunships to bomb, rocket and shell villages which were being flattened.

Quite understandably bombs and heavy artillery as well as gunships would not differentiate between militants and innocent civilians.
In its wake it caused tremendous human displacement which the UN called, for a time span of 15 days, the largest human dislocation in the world in the last 20 years.

Hundreds of innocent civilians having been killed and hundreds of thousands having been forced to leave their homes. What a price to pay for peace!

That the whole operation was timed to coincide with the president's visit so the US adds another sinister dimensions to the government policy.
Do we establish the "writ" of the government by causing the displacement of 1.5 million peaceful citizens?

And are these the only areas where the writ was challenged? Has the government writ not disappeared in the mega-city of the country since the time Musharraf took control? And was he not complicit in surrendering the mega-city to an ethnic political outfit?

Have scores of people not been killed on ethnic grounds in that city without anyone getting penalised?

Would the government apply the same yardstick that they applied in the case of poor Swatis?

The fact that Pakhtoons are being systematically killed and their properties destroyed from Farah, Helmand and Kunar to the tribal areas and Malakand Division has raised many disturbing questions in the minds of the people.

True, Gen Kiyani has proved to be an inspiring leader with impeccable credentials. But when the dust has settled people would bear anger and acrimony against the handful of Taliban militants, as well as the government, for launching an operation which has obliterated the Pakhtoon mainland. This is not going to help in creating any conducive environment which could inspire love for the country and respect for its institutions.

Which other nation would get involved in a genocidal war for obtaining "assistance"? Indeed the whole pattern of the events would seem to fit in the overarching strategic goals of some distant imperial power. And if that is the case, watch out! Waziristan is next in line.

Pakhtoons on both sides of the divide are paying a colossal price for not being "on board" and not being conformists; and this while they don't have any leadership worth the name. Genuine leaders would stay with their people and share with them their agonies and sufferings rather than choosing to stay away in such critical times in the history of Pakhtoons. news 30-5-09