Paying for their Crimes

Dec 2012

Pages: 1 | 2

Almost all the languages in this region—including Torwali—belong to an oral tradition. In today’s globalized written culture, the primacy of an oral tradition and the lack of a script have presented special challenges for these communities in preserving the rich ecology of their cultural and social lives. Some communities have begun to develop scripts including Torwali. This is where IBT comes in. We have worked to develop a Torwali script akin to Urdu and to incorporate that script as well as the language into our education and literacy campaigns.

And, this is why our organization, IBT, had opened Mhoon School—“mhoon” meaning “our” in Torwali. The issue, for us, was not just about education, but about the preservation of our social communities which have been marginalized for decades. As we moved ahead with our plans for the school, educated seniors advised us to forego our plans, even to leave the area permanently.

We ignored them. Mhoon School opened its doors in August 2008. We had 70 students. Children began education in their mother tongue and were later “bridged” to Urdu and English.

Then, one morning in April 2009 after the Swat peace deal had been announced and the Taliban had extended their write to the whole of Malakand, a colleague burst through the school doors yelling, “Lock, lock the gate! Taliban are coming towards us!” He had gone to the bazaar where the Taliban also had their headquarters. There, he had learned that the group was headed towards the school. Frightened, we did shut the school down for four months, and most of us went underground till September 2009 when the military declared Swat clear of the TTP.

Mhoon School has now re-opened. IBT has also expanded to other projects.  We have launched a Swat-Kohistan women’s education program in collaboration with USAID’s small grants division. The program is the first of its kind: two thousand women will become literate by receiving education in their mother tongue, Torwali.

We still have chronic challenges as fear of a comeback of the Taliban has not receded. If that should happen, it means not only a closure of girls’ education but also our ability to protect and preserve our cultures. The fragility of peace, and the rise in targeted killings in Swat plunge us into despair each and every time. It is as if we—the marginalized communities of northern Pakistan—are made to stand in the dock for crimes the Pakistani state and its establishment have been committing.

 Zubair Torwali is founder and Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), a Swat-based non-profit.

Pages: 1 2

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to Paying for their Crimes

  1. Saime on Jan 2013 at 4:40 PM

    The parallels beweetn the Palestinians and Pakistanis are rather instructive.In both cases, previous goverenments (i.e., Fatah and Musharref) were seen as being so corrupt that even brutal fundamentalist regimes (i.e., Hamas and Taliban), were regarded as acceptable alternatives.Whenever this sort of “frying pan to fire” political transition takes place, it should be regarded as a sign of one thing only:A FAILED STATEIn both cases, a self-avowed terrorist government was put in place and that should be the starter’s pistol for an immediate dismantling of whatever region is involved.In the case of the Palestinians, a complete and total failure should have been declared with the immediate deportation of all Gazans to Egypt or Lebanon. (The West Bank should also have experienced this as well, with a forced exodus to Lebanon, Syria or Jordan.)In the case of Pakistan, it should be divided along the Indus river with half given to Afghanistan and the other portion to India. A possible lower third area could be reserved for an independent Balochi state should Iran fragment. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal should be confiscated and defused as well.In this age of WMDs, a sane world can no longer tolerate the existence of governments predicated upon terrorism, much less sharia law. Consider how much conflict and global instability would be eliminated were just these two flashpoint regions abruptly decorticated. Given just another decade, either one could become the first site of Islamic nuclear terrorism. That one possibility alone should provide all the reasons necessary.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *