Page last updated at 14:20 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 15:20 UK

Eyewitnesses: Inside Swat

Cooks prepare food at a refugee camp
Hundreds of thousands of people are living in refugee camps in Pakistan

The military operation against Taliban militants continues in Pakistan's north-western district of Swat. It is hard to get news from the war zone, other than the official version. The communications network has been destroyed and all journalists have left the region. But the BBC Urdu service's Abdul Hai Kakar has managed to speak to two people in the main town of Mingora. The names have been changed for security reasons.


Mehmood had to climb to a hilltop to get a signal for his cell phone. He sounded angry at both the Taliban and the army, but was especially critical of the security forces.

Thousands of people are still trapped here due to the fighting between the Taliban and the army.

They are in a state of virtual confinement due to the curfew.

The government spokesmen, sitting in Islamabad or Peshawar, are making false claims about the situation in Swat, saying they have taken control of the situation, or captured that place, or killed so many Taliban.

I swear upon God that it's nothing like that.

Soldiers in Pakistan
"A majority of the people killed here are civilians"

Except for some parts of the GT (Grand Trunk) road, some mountain tops and the circuit house in Mingora, all of Swat is under the control of the Taliban.

If the government really has cleared and taken control of the region, it should bring in the media and let the whole world see it for themselves.

I keep moving around, and in several places I have seen army checkpoints with a Taliban checkpoint nearby.

However, neither side engages the other, and even helicopters and jets are not called in to attack the Taliban positions.

A few days ago I tried to speak to a masked Taliban militant in Pashto, and then in Urdu, and he could not understand me.

Then another militant told me that his comrade was an Arab and did not speak Pashto or Urdu.

I then asked him 'how are you' in Arabic, and they all laughed.

This raises doubts over the government's claims that they have blocked all routes into the valley.

How could he get in, when all roads are blocked?

I also don't understand who the operation is aimed against.

A majority of the people who have been killed here are civilians.

This is not an operation, it is a drama. Swat's people cannot be made fools of.


The cell phone service does work for a little while late at night.

But the signals are very bad.

The Taliban still control Mingora, but security forces have reached the outskirts of the city.

I spoke to a friend of mine in Makanbagh earlier.

He told me that the security forces are announcing, via loudspeakers, that citizens should leave the area.

But the Taliban are preventing them from doing this.

Foodstuff in the city is rapidly becoming inedible.

I saw a boy selling a litre of petrol for 150 rupees ($1.85; £1.20)

In addition, medical supplies are non-existent.

A chemist told me that he had only two syringes left in his shop, which he was keeping for his own use.

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