Valley of death 185

 From Spiegel Online International:

In effect, Pakistan, a nuclear power, has relinquished its sovereignty over an important part of the country.

The once-idyllic Swat Valley has been in a state of war since 2007. The military sent a total of 12,000 troops to the region in an attempt to curb the influence of the extremists, who have beheaded 70 policemen, banned girls’ education and destroyed hundred of schools in the valley.

The clashes resulted in a great deal of bloodshed, including the deaths of at least 1,200 civilians and 180 Pakistani soldiers. But the outcome of these military operations was fatal for the government. Today, the Taliban control more than 80 percent of the Malakand region, compared with only a handful of villages a year ago.

Civilians found themselves caught between the combatants. "The army ordered us to leave the village ahead of the fighting, but the Taliban forced us to stay there," a frantic hotel owner reports by telephone from a village near Malam Jabba, once a popular ski resort…

Many even claim that the military has deliberately spared the Taliban leadership to avoid provoking further Taliban animosity against itself and the government. Others believe that the security forces were just too weak to defeat the 3,000 armed extremists. Both views are probably correct. The militants installed their regime in the mountainous tribal areas after being ousted from Afghanistan in 2001. Now their power is starting to spill over into Pakistan’s heartland, which includes the Swat Valley.

After the sun has set in the Swat Valley, small groups of men furtively enter the house of Khalil Mullah. The visitors are Taliban spies, and they have come to report to Khalil – whose name means "friend" in Arabic – about who has broken the laws of Allah in the region they control. They will report who has been seen dancing exuberantly, had his beard shaved, committed adultery or expressed sympathy for the government in Islamabad – in short, who is a traitor.

Khalil Mullah begins his daily radio show on FM 91, a Taliban radio station, at about 8 p.m. The residents of the snow-covered plateau listen to Khalil’s religious broadcast to hear the names he reads at the end. Acting as both judge and prosecutor, he announces the names of those required to appear before the Taliban’s Sharia count – and of those who have already been sentenced.


Map: The Swat Valley


Map: The Swat Valley

The bodies of these unfortunate residents can be found the next morning on the market square in Mingora. The corpses are hanging by their legs, their heads cut off and placed onto the soles of their feet as a final form of disgrace for the dead. A note under each body reads: "The same penalty will await those who dare to remove or bury these spies and traitors."


The extremists are led by Maulana Fazlullah, 33, a self-proclaimed cleric who once worked as a laborer on a ski lift. The people of Malakand call him simply the "radio mullah." It was Fazlullah who first took his terrorist network to the airwaves.

In his broadcasts, he promised more efficiency and justice to citizens disappointed by the corrupt and lethargic Pakistani authorities. But the station quickly turned into a parallel government of sorts. In each day’s broadcast, Fazlullah’s holy warriors issue new rules that reflect their own interpretation of Sharia. Women are already banned from visiting markets, under penalty of death, and girls prohibited from attending school. Police officers who obey orders from Islamabad risk having their ears cut off or being killed. Some 800 policemen have already deserted their posts to join the Taliban.

The death lists draw no class distinctions and include people from all walks of life. The Taliban’s victims range from barbers and teachers to tribal elders, ministers and more liberal clerics who oppose Fazlullah.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Thursday, February 26, 2009

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