Pakistani Taliban ask NGOs to leave Swat valley


Islamabad : Insurgents in Pakistan’s volatile Swat Valley in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) who recently made a peace deal with the government now want all NGOs to leave the area.

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“They come and tell us how to make latrines in mosques and homes. I’m sure we can do it ourselves. There is no need for foreigners to tell us this,” Muslim Khan, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said from Swat Valley.

“NGO is another name for vulgarity and obscenity. They don’t want us to remain Muslims and want to take away the veil from our women,” Khan claimed.

He said NGOs hire women who work alongside men in the field and in offices. “That is totally un-Islamic and unacceptable,” he said.

Maulana Fazalullah, the leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-Mohammadi (TNSM), who has aligned himself with TTP said on an illegal FM radio station on 2 March: “All NGOs should leave Swat because they are creating problems for peace.”

In an earlier interview Fazalullah said: “All Pakistanis working for them (NGOs) are enemies of the country.”

Mohammad Roshan of Swat Participatory Council (SPC), a local NGO, said there were about 10 NGOs currently active in Swat Valley.

None of them declare they are Muslim or Islamic; all are non-profit organisations and do not differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims when it comes to providing aid, he said.

Among international NGOs, only humanitarian medical organisations are reportedly allowed.

“Only Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF], the International Committee of the Red Cross and some local philanthropists who are distributing relief goods to internally displaced persons [IDPs] are allowed,” said Khan.

MSF, which had stopped work after two of its staff were killed on 1 February, has resumed work, Fasil Tezera, MSF (Belgium) head in Pakistan, confirmed.

Since the insurgency began in 2007, some local NGOs have pulled down their sign-boards. However, some are working with the implicit approval of the Taliban, said Roshan.

Khan said the TTP was against polio vaccination, repeating unfounded allegations that the vaccine causes infertility.

Similar allegations have blocked the polio eradication campaigns in parts of Pakistan before.

“I’m 45 and have never had one drop of the vaccine and I am still alive.”

Part of the problem is that the anti-polio campaign is run by NGOs and the vaccine is imported, said Khan.

“We would have no problem, if the vaccine had been made locally, in Pakistan,” he said, adding that the TTP was particularly against all foreign overtures on family planning.