After schoolgirls, Swat Taliban target lawyers, judges


Islamabad : After depriving more than 40,000 schoolgirls of their right to basic education, the Taliban, who control the Swat Valley in Pakistan’s restive northwest, have now turned their guns on lawyers and judges, warning that they would be killed if they did not quit the “infidel judicial system”.

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Such is the panic caused by the Taliban diktat to enforce the Shariah Islamic judicial regime that the Swat Bar Association is desperately attempting to contact the militants in a bid to ensure that no harm comes to its 300 members.

Association president Aftab Alam has even gone to the extent of saying that after the implementation of the Shariah regime, firebrand cleric Maulana Fazlullah, who controls the Swat region, would no longer need to battle the government and challenge its writ.

Alam “identified inordinate delays in the dispensation of justice as the root cause of the problems facing the once idyllic region”, The News said Wednesday.

“Many poor people supported the rebels because the present judicial system did not provide them speedy justice, argued Alam, who called for the implementation of the proposed Shariah regulation in Swat,” the newspaper added.

Alam’s fear is justifiable, given the manner in which the managements of some 400 private schools have bowed to a Taliban decree and discontinued girls’ classes, depriving more than 40,000 students of an education.

Additionally, 84,248 girl students of state-run institutions are unlikely to attend school when classes resume March 1.

The Pakistani Army and paramilitary forces have been deployed at some schools in the Swat Valley but this is being viewed as mere tokenism.

According to the owner of a chain of institutes, the district coordination officer had offered security to the schools “but we think it will not work”.

“Girls, their parents, teachers and even drivers transporting students to and from schools are frightened while the owners of buildings have also asked us to vacate their property in view of fear of damage due to bombing,” the owner said.

“Thus, posting a few personnel at schools is of no use. So, we have decided to close female sections in private institutes to avoid the militants’ wrath,” he added.

The Taliban had Dec 24, 2008 asked all government and private schools to close down girls’ classes by Jan 15.

The militants have already destroyed 172 schools – 122 for girls and 50 for boys. This apart, 18 schools have been occupied by the armed forces engaged in operations against the militants.

Just how grim the situation in Swat is can be gauged from an editorial in The News Wednesday.

“What is less reported but is an emerging and predictable problem is that of internally displaced persons (IDPs) – people who have either been forced to flee for their lives because of the ferocity of the fighting or have chosen to leave of their own volition,” the editorial, headlined “Taking flight”, said.

“It is estimated that over 20,000 have fled their homes and are now at makeshift camps in and around Peshawar, presenting yet another problem to the beleaguered government of NWFP (North West Frontier Province). Those people that have stayed behind say that government control is now virtually non-existent,” the editorial added.

Noting that the refugees face a life of “uncertainty, deprivation and misery”, the editorial said: “Having been failed by the government in their homelands they are likely to be failed again by the same government – which has a poor record of responding to the needs of those displaced by the numerous internal conflicts now raging within our borders.”