The Swat situation is complicated. Both sides, the religious fanatics and the government are trying different tactics and are not sure which one will work. The prices for their blunders is paid by ordinary people of the area.
The Taliban settled in Swat long ago and were integrated in the area. Between 1994-95, there was a religious movement of Tehreek-e Nafaz-e Shariat-e-Mohammdi (TNSM), led by Maulana Sufi Mohammed for the implementation of “Islam”. But the government and the Sufi Mohammed compromised.
When the US attacked Afghanistan over 15,000 fundamentalists and followers of Sufi Mohammed went to Afghanistan for jihad. After the defeat of the Taliban local people were angry with Sufi Mohammed. The local people wanted to ask him why he had taken their sons to Afghanistan without their permission and many had lost lives during the Afghan adventure. He was arrested by the government to save him from people’s anger.
Until 2006, the LPP had good progressive forces in the area. Some of the main leaders of the Awami National Party (a secular Pashtun party in the area) joined the LPP. Later most of the ANP leaders of the area were either killed or they left the area to safe their lives.
But in 2008 general elections, in Swat, Boner, Dir and Chitral, no religious person was elected. (The LPP boycotted the general elections of 2008 on the appeal of the lawyers’ movement).
So this whole area had many political ups and downs. Fundamentalists have spread in the area within the last three years, and particularly after the general election of 2008, because they were organised and armed. They had resources and were using fascist tactics. The ANP and PPP went along with the fundamentalists after the general elections, and released Sufi Mohammed. That strengthened the fanatics. The failure of the main political parties to mobilise people against the fundamentalists paved the way for their growth.
There are three main groups among the Taliban. And the ISI [Pakistani intelligence agency] and the CIA have their own groups among the Taliban. There are many incidents in Swat where truckloads of arms were captured by police and then army personnel let it go. Some sections of the Taliban were supported by some sections of the army.
Taliban activities have had devastating and shocking effect on the lives of the peoples in the area. Women are worst hit. The flogging of one woman shown to the media is just one incident — this has become a norm under the Taliban.
On LPP comrade told us that he was travelling with his seven year old daughter. The Taliban stopped them and asked “Why no veil for your daughter?”
The Jamaat-i Islami supports the Taliban and are the agents of Taliban in the cities. Because of Taliban control, the Swat economy is ruined. The factories are closed.
The Taliban movement is a fascist movement, not a religious one. They are eliminating their opponents. I know some Taliban who do not pray or go to religious preaching.
Amn Committees, or Defence Committees, cannot be done now, it is too late. But there is no other solution but to arm the people. Although we have to see how in Afghanistan those who were armed to fight the Taliban themselves became armed groups and warlords.
In Rustam, my small town in Murdan district, the Taliban came on motor bikes. They contacted the criminals, asked them to come to the mosque. They had a cheque book and said that money was no problem. All tactics are used by them.
There is no military solution of this issue, either from the army or the Taliban — neither are trusted by people.
Now, the Taliban are fighting a guerrilla war and we must oppose it and fight against it. There are some leftists who says let the Taliban be killed by the Americans and the army. This attitude must be opposedl. The situation of Afghanistan is the best example of why. The military operation has resulted in the devastating effect of the displacement of hundreds of thousands.
People will fight back if mass mobilisation is the main strategy. We have to build an alternative. We have to unite all the forces opposing Taliban and also those who oppose the military solution. The labour movement has to play a role, mainly in the Punjab. Many displaced people are coming to Murdan. We have to help them.