Militancy at war with the society in Swat

By: Khadim Hussain

One of the few reactions came from Maulana Fazlullah from Swat who has been reported to have announced on his illegal FM radio to wage Jihad against the government of Pakistan since the operation on Jamia Hafsa in Islamabad Pakistan was started on the 3rd of July 2007. Maulana Fazlullah, known as Mamdherai Maulvi Saib, is the son-in-law of Sufi Mohammad, the erstwhile leader of the defunct Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM).

One would like to recall that the defunct TNSM had clashed with the local administration in 1994 and had effectively brought the whole administrative structure of district Swat, North West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P), to a standstill. Later, when the American forces invaded Afghanistan, Sufi Mohammad had exhorted his followers to join the Taliban in Afghanistan in their armed struggle against the American forces. Hundreds of his followers under his command crossed the border and entered Afghanistan. The rest of the story is shrouded in mystery and what is known is that Maulana Sufi Mohammad returned from Afghanistan but most of his followers did not return. The Maulana is now languishing behind the bars in Pakistan.

Maulana Fazlullah, now in his thirtees, graduated from the seminary run by Maualana Sufi Mohammad in Kumbar district Dir. The New York Times in its July 5, 2007 issues reports, “In one attack, a suicide car bomber hit a Pakistani military convoy in the border region of Bannu, in the North-West Frontier Province, killing six soldiers and four children playing cricket nearby. That attack was probably retaliation for a missile strike on militants in the area that killed 34 people on June 19. The second attack on Wednesday, a roadside bomb aimed at district police officer, killed three civilians in the district of Swat, said the provincial police chief, Sharif Virk. He blamed a local cleric who has been trying to rally support for the clerics under siege in Islamabad”.

The majority Pukhtuns/ Pashtoons population of valley Swat have had decades of suitably institutionalized state rule which had palatable secular flavour. The majority population of the beautiful valley Swat has been molded to absorb and tolerate diversity and plurality which are in abundance in the valley probably more than all other Pushtoon cultural units located in other geographical and ecological areas both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One is just surprised when one hears the influence of the kind of word Maulana Fazlullah is spreading in the beautiful pastures, splendidly crafted hills and the profusely fragrant banks of the fast flowing River Swat across the valley. Even now when most of the Pakistani and international analysts assume that valley Swat is besieged by militancy, the traditional trade exhibition usually held in the central trade centre, Mingawara, just close to the area reportedly influenced by Maulana Fazlullah, continues to be visited both by men and women together. This open attitude of the people in Swat is in tandem with the policies of late Walis of Swat, Miangul Abdul Wadud (1917-1949) and Miangul Jahanzeb (1949-1969). During these eras the people of Swat enjoyed amazing peace and development. The European tourists wound find the socio-cultural environment of the valley more than safe, hospitable and accommodative while visiting across the Swat valley in those good old days.

The present apparent wave of militancy reported from valley Swat might be traced to the early nineties. The hard core militarily trained “Mujahideen” from Pakistan and other countries were desperately looking for their new assignments. Probably the same confusion had engulfed the power echelons of the secret agencies of both Pakistan and the US who had been quite close with these “Mujahideen” during the cold war. Several authors have observed that the portion of “Mujahideen” who had been the students of Pakistani madrassas returned to Pakistan and started teaching in the madrassas of Pakistan and began exhorting the sermons they had been psychologically tuned in during the cold war.

The Mujahedeen trained in Afghanistan were cleverly induced in Kashmir to fight another holy war against the Idolater Hindus. Jmaat-i- Islami was used as B team of the Pakistan Army at that point of time. The battlefield as a result of Kashmir policy was brought in the mountains of Himalayas very familiar with Afghanistan and suitable for guerrilla warfare. Mushroom growth of mujahideen groups was seen throughout the country and in Swat in particular. Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad were probably more influential among the former mujahideen factions. Some of these mujahideen groups developed their own regimented sectarian forces in the shape of Sipah-e-Sahaba, Sipah-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jahnagvi. The head quarters and central leadership of all these militant organizations were situated in the Punjab province of Pakistan but these organizations remained in touch with their counterpoints and former Jihadi colleagues in the North West Frontier Province. The MMA government’s lenient policies in this regard might also be thought to have boosted up the mujahideen activities in Swat, Bajawar and Dir.

The early nineties was also the time when the District and divisional administration brought Sufi Muhammad, chief of TNSM, to Swat. The TNSM started gathering strength in the Tehsil Kabal (Nekpikhel) and Tehsil Matta (Shamizai and Sibijni) Swat. It is also observed that the following factors are responsible for the growth of militancy and popularity of the TNSM in Swat.

Firstly, the movement was seen to be stronger in the area where the landed aristocracy has its firm hold since long. The workers who joined the TNSM were mostly those who belonged to the landless families. The movement gave them an opportunity to participate in the power game of the area. The landless masses and religious groups of the influenced part of the valley joined hands under the leadership of Maulana Sufi Mohammed that made it a strong force in a short span of time.

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