Paying for their Crimes

Dec 2012

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.

“Yes, but you have also girls as teachers at your school who mix with your male colleagues,” Moamber, a Talib, who was my former schoolmate, told me. By then, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had captured the entire district of Swat, after the failed peace deal between the government and Taliban in February 2009.

In a preemptive attempt I had approached my former classmate in the hopes of protecting a co-ed school where I worked as school coordinator. The school, called Mhoon School, had been founded in August 2008 by Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi (IBT), a Swat-based non-profit where I was the Executive Director.

Instead, Moamber warned me to keep the female teachers away from the school because the ‘case’ was being discussed by the Taliban at their local headquarters. Out of a staff of 6 teachers, four were female. I asked them to come to school fully-veiled hoping that this would be sufficient to detract the Taliban.

We took a stand and decided to keep the school open. The TTP had already closed three private schools along with the single public school for girls in Bahrain—not the country, but a small locality in Swat populated by the ethno-linguistic Torwali community. Those schools didn’t close without a battle.

It began in 2007 when the Taliban had begun to gain ground in Swat. A jirga that year, triggered by the Taliban sympathizers, campaigned against female education at these schools.  At that time, I tried to organize the owners and teachers of these schools and to confront the jirga, no small task since those who were part of the jirga could claim to be the elders of the community..

We struggled for three months and succeeded—at least temporarily—and, the girls continued to go to school. But, the Taliban rose to power, and ultimately, the schools were forcibly closed in the summer of 2007.

Around the same time however, a few of us from the Torwali community, had coalesced to form a non-profit to sustain and revitalize our indigenous culture and our endangered language—Torwali, spoken by roughly 90,000 people scattered in north Pakistan. The non-profit, Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi or IBT, which derives its name from the first three letters of Urdu and Torwali, Alif Be Te, was established in early 2007 for the uplift of the ethno-linguistic minority communities of north Pakistan. These communities from Chitral to Gilgit-Baltistan have their distinct but endangered languages and cultures. They are also among the least explored and developed communities in Pakistan. Mainstream Pakistanis often refer to them as migrants despite the fact that they are the original inhabitants of the mountainous regions from the Hindu Kush to the bottom of Himalayas.

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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.

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