Jemima Khan. former wife of Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan with whom she had two sons, in the Sunday Times:
The day I’m leaving for Pakistan a round-robin e-mail pings into my inbox from an address I don’t recognise, Wise Pakistan. The message reads: “It is important you watch this to see what’s coming.”
Ten men are lined up and each one is filmed talking inaudibly to camera. The first man is pinned to the ground by four others. His throat is slit like a goat at Eid and his head held aloft by his hair. The Urdu subtitle reads: “This is what happens to spies.” It’s a Taliban home video – to jaunty music – of serial beheadings. There are plenty of these doing the rounds nowadays.
I’m off to Pakistan for the children’s half-term. They visit their father there every holiday. I lived in Pakistan throughout my twenties. Now it’s a different place – the most dangerous country on Earth, some say – and my friends and family are worried.
For my last four years in Pakistan we lived at the quaintly named House 10, Street 1, E7. Two months ago a bomb exploded 100 yards from the house, killing four people; about 1,500 have been killed this year in terrorist attacks. More:
Andrew Buncombe in the Independent:
The language was already biblical; now the scale of what is happening matches it. The exodus of people forced from their homes in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and elsewhere in the country’s north-west may be as high as 2.4 million, aid officials say. Around the world, only a handful of war-spoiled countries – Sudan, Iraq, Colombia – have larger numbers of internal refugees. The speed of the displacement at its height – up to 85,000 people a day – was matched only during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This is now one of the biggest sudden refugee crises the world has ever seen.
Until now, the worst of the problem has been kept largely out of sight. Of the total displaced by the military’s operations against the Taliban – the army yesterday claimed a crucial breakthrough, taking control of the Swat Valley’s main town, Mingora – just 200,000 people have been forced to live in the makeshift tent camps dotted around the southern fringe of the conflict zone. The vast majority were taken in by relatives, extended family members and local people wanting to help. More:
William Wheeler in Foreign Affairs:
One day this month, Faridun Karimdad, a 36-year-old farm worker, was lying on a cot in a gloomy hospital ward in Mardan, a town in Pakistan’s northwest. He inched onto his right side to show me the splatter of dried blood above his left hip. The day before, as Karimdad and his family prepared to flee the village of Khot in the Swat Valley, a mortar exploded outside his home, shattering his hip and killing his son and two daughters. He could live with his loss, he told me, if he believed the Pakistani military’s offensive would bring peace — if only the brief peace his village enjoyed after the Pakistani government negotiated a cease-fire with Taliban fighters last February.
Karimdad, like many of the refugees fleeing the fighting in Swat, blames both sides for violating the terms of the deal. The government had agreed to recognize sharia, Islamic law, in the region if the militants agreed to lay down their arms. But peace did not hold for long. The Taliban continued pushing into mountains toward the capital, Islamabad, and claimed territory in the neighboring district of Buner.
Then, in early May, facing harsh criticism from the United States for ceding territory to the militants, the government launched a heavy-handed military offensive against the Taliban in Swat — a mission that Karimdad, like many in his situation, believes is destined to fail. The Pakistani military claims to have killed more than 1,200 Taliban fighters and is now waging street battles and searching houses for militants in Swat’s main town of Mingora. More:
Christina Lamb in the Sunday Times:
In a darkened room in Peshawar, far from prying eyes, a medical student from the Swat valley opens his laptop and begins a slideshow of terror. Over the past three years, the 22-year-old has secretly catalogued the horrors of life in Swat under the Taliban.
The burning down of schools, bodies hanging upside down, public lashings and decapitated heads with dollars stuffed in their nostrils and notes reading, “This is what happens to spies,” were all captured on his mobile phone at great personal risk.
“I’m training to be a doctor; our mission is to prolong life and in front of me are these people who care nothing for human life,” he explained as, with each click of the mouse, he revealed more bodies in pools of blood. All the images were too gruesome to publish. More:
WARNING: This video contains images some people may find disturbing.
The chilling video shows Taleban members flogging a teenage girl in the Swat valley in Pakistan. The girl had been accused of adultery and received 37 lashes. As two men hold her down, she pleads for mercy: “Please stop it,” she is heard crying in Pashto. “Either kill me or stop it now.”
The video was shot using a cell phone. Contacted on phone by The Guardian, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law. Click here to read the story.
Pakistan region in grip of fear as leader begins to implement Sharia law
The Guardian report from Mingora:
With his flowing white beard and thick spectacles, Sufi Muhammad has an avuncular air about him that can initially appear reassuring.
But all that changes when the 70-year-old kingpin of the Swat valley opens his mouth to promise more of the kind of punishment meted out to the 17-year-old local woman captured in the mobile video footage.
Muhammad is leader of an Islamist movement that has long since agitated for sharia justice. And he took a big step towards his objective in February when he struck a “peace for sharia” deal with the authorities under which the Taliban would stop a two-year armed campaign in the region in return for the establishment of new religious courts. In a rare interview with any media outlet, domestic or foreign, he told the Guardian that the new courts would formalise penalties including flogging, chopping off hands and stoning to death. More: