Page last updated at 00:58 GMT, Friday, 1 January 2010

Swat diary: 'A new beginning'

Internally displaced people in a camp near Lahore in May 2009
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced as a result of conflict in Swat

Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced as a result of the Pakistani military operation again the Taliban in the Swat region of north-west Pakistan in 2009. Munir (not his real name), an administrator in Swat, reflects on a difficult year but is hopeful about the future.

Exactly a year ago, I remember coming home one evening and learning that four women, two men and a child were killed by the Taliban in our village.

Our worries now are more about the future of the country as a whole

I remember that time so clearly and I'll remember it till my last breath - the cruelties done to us have never happened in another part of the world.

We couldn't talk freely outside our homes because there were spies of the Taliban all around us. We couldn't listen to music: satellite dishes had to be removed and TV sets broken or sold.

Men had to grow beards and go to the mosque for prayers by force. Many girls were forced to marry Taliban militants against their will and many were killed as there were doubts about their character.

This year has proved to be both fruitful and disastrous for me. It was fruitful because I got married and we got rid of the militants - perhaps forever. It was disastrous because I lost my close friend and because we were displaced from our home.


The year was indeed a bad year for us, just like 2008 and 2007. But nothing is completely bad. We learnt a lot throughout the year.

During our displacement we learnt to appreciate peace, we learnt the importance of education, the availability of water. We learnt that we had been a bit ungrateful for the blessings Allah had bestowed on us.

We missed our home and our village. We learnt never to be deceived in the name of Islam and Sharia again.

We learnt what true hospitality is, particularly from our brothers and sisters from Mardan, Swabi and other districts who showed us kindness during our suffering.

'Bright future'

But after all the misery we've been through I can now say that everything is fine in Swat. I think that Swat is safe and that the militants will never return again - their network has been completely destroyed by the security forces.

Some people are fearful that the militants will come back and the reason for these fears is the frequent suicide attacks in every corner of the country. People were so oppressed by the Taliban and the fear hasn't gone away.

Previous diary entries

But peace has returned to Swat. Only a recent attack on our provincial assembly has aggravated the situation again.

Militants are no longer here and if they were, at least we don't see them carrying weapons as we used to only a year ago.

We can listen to music again and do what we want. Girls are free again to go to school without any hindrance.

The biggest problem is the useless checking at the checkposts. I say useless, because if militants want to carry out attacks, they can move through fields and rivers, avoiding checkposts.

People are not happy with this constant checking. We hope that the checkposts will be removed and we'll no longer be harassed.

We have great expectations from the government and particularly from the army. We hope the government will start rebuilding our schools and colleges next year. And we hope that militants in government custody will get severe punishment for what they've done to us.

Nearly everyone around me is positive about the bright future of Swat. Our worries are more about the future of the country as a whole as suicide attacks happen so often these days in Pakistan.

We don't have the tradition of celebrating the arrival of the new year. But personally, I like to make an effort for a good start of the new year. I'll get up early, I'll recite the holy Koran and I'll go for my duty on time and do all things which are good. I believe in the saying 'all that starts well, ends well'.

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