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Swat diary: 'No more a battlefield'

Pakistan's Swat valley held its first election since Taliban militants were ejected from the area after a military offensive last year. Munir (not his real name), an administrator in Swat, reflects on the significance of the vote and challenges ahead.



We had a by-election in Swat on 28 January to elect a new provincial assembly member after our previous MPA was killed in a suicide attack in December.

Troops on patrol in the village of Kabal, Swat Valley (file pic: 11 December 2009)
Swat has been largely peaceful since militants were driven out last year

The by-election was important on many grounds. It gave a signal to rest of the country and especially to the world that Swat is no more a battlefield. The outcome also sent out the message that the people of Swat are liberal and broad-minded.

The people of Swat have learnt a lot during their displacement last year and they proved it by voting out the so-called religious parties.

This election was regarded by the ordinary people as very important. Everyone was talking about it. People were commenting widely that it would not be good to elect someone from a religious party, because religious parties supported the militants in the past and there's no guarantee they won't do that again.

There were six candidates contesting the election. One of them, Rahmat Ali, is the brother of our previous MPA whose assassination was the reason for this election. He belongs to the ANP [Awami National Party], which governs North West Frontier Province. He won by a big margin by securing over 7,000 votes.

map

Another candidate, Hussain Ahmad, had a chance to win too, because he was the information minister in the last government and did many good things here for the people like repairing roads, upgrading and building schools and hospitals.

There was a tough competition between these two. I think Mr Ahmad was defeated because he remained silent when the situation started to deteriorate in Swat. That's the reason for his failure, I think.

There was immense fear among people before the election because there was a rumour about a suicide attack.

Many were thinking of staying at home. But the security forces showed their professionalism by making sure the election was peaceful. All the streets were closed, except for the main one and a curfew was imposed on the election day, so vehicles couldn't come from other places.

'Bad policy'

There are plenty of problems in Swat but our top priority is peace. We don't want anything from the government, but peace. People say that if there is peace in Swat, they can work and their children can go to schools and colleges.

Previous diary entries

I get all tearful whenever I see children study in the rubble of destroyed schools. The government must rebuild the schools and colleges that were torched or blown up by militants.

People whose houses were damaged by mistake by the security forces should also be compensated.

The funds which have been given to Pakistan by other countries for the reconstruction should be spent on the schools and colleges. I say this because billions of rupees were donated by other countries for the reconstruction of homes, schools and colleges in areas hit by the earthquake in 2005, but still a lot of schools and colleges are in dilapidated conditions.

Security forces have been demolishing houses known to belong to militants. I think it is a very bad policy. The government must reconsider immediately.

It's a bad policy, because nobody has control over their brothers or children. Nobody has control over their father to dissuade him from militancy.

So it is not good to demolish a house just for the sake of one man. This way the government deprives other members of the family of their home, which pushes other members of the family towards militancy and further deteriorates the situation.

Instead of demolishing houses of militants, the government should confiscate them and use them as schools.



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