Swat Valley, Show Us the damage ravaged by war, how many Swat residents still homeless?

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In a story in July 2009, it was reported that 250,000 of 2 Million displaced Swat residents returned to their homes after the attack by the Pakistani Military (More here).

We at Out of Central Asia Now have been calling on the Pakistani press to SHOW US SWAT VALLEY NOW, let’s see the damage done to the homes, farms, roads, public buildings, but no one will show us. Here’s an article about what is described as the conditions in Swat Valley today, but again, it is not in any detail. Where’s the photos, the TV crews? If it is all so good, show us (more of our “displaced person” stories here)

Swat Valley War Damage, June 2009, after Pakistan Army began assault

After Swat Valley, the Pakistan Army went to South Waziristan and displaced 2.5 Million people, and again, show us the damage. Show us the people returning to their bombed out villages. Now North Waziristan gets hit weekly by U.S. Assassination Predator/Raptor Drones with HellFire missiles being used to destroy “Taliban Terrorists and their training camps”. Today, 17 “Terrorists” killed by U.S. Assassination Drones (read story here) Show us. Even President Zardari says “Drone attacks not helping war on terror”. Also, for the first time, a local government is calling on Islamabad: “Drone attacks ‘arrogant violation’ of Pak sovereignty: JI, and that the government had not even formally protested over the “persistent and arrogant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty”. And finally, a MUST READ: Prime Minister Gilani announces relief package for NWFP, FATA. Tax Relief? Don’t pay for utilities? This is in the “Package”. The Pakistan Government and Military declared “Civil War” on their own people at the insistance of the U.S. Government, attack Swat Valley, South Waziristan next, now U.S. Assassination Predator Drones killing people in North Waziristan and throughout the FATA and MWFP areas.

View: Rehabilitation of Swat —Zubair Torwali, a story in dailytimes.com/pk

[Ed. Note: Bold wording not part of the original article. This Swat Valley story shows how hard it is to “rebuild” and to give aid to people “displaced” upon their return. It is an example of what faces “reconstruction” and “rehabilitation” throughout Central Asia War Zones. U.S. must End the War(s) NOW]

    It is said that each child at the government primary schools will get a certain amount of food items for some years. The reason behind this is of course to tempt them to enrol, and discourage dropping out. This may be counter-productive as many parents would send their children to schools to get the ration only. A complete rehabilitation of terrorism and counter terrorism hit areas of Pakistan, particularly the scenic valley of Swat, will probably take years if not decades but, nevertheless, a thorough and speedy initiative needs to be launched immediately. To demand an immediate rehabilitation is sane but to demand a realistic and well planned rehabilitation is critical. Society and its infrastructure in the areas are severely devastated. It is not a single area of human living that can be termed the most hit but an overall damage to every aspect is now well evident from the impacts and debris. By now some of the rehabilitation work is underway; and some of the non-governmental agencies have turned to Swat to intervene. It is a welcome move and should be applauded. But the concern the local expertise expresses is the haphazard rehabilitation activities by the non-governmental agencies; the governmental agencies have yet to find a space in the area or they are too lazy to move on. What is feared here is a replication of what has been done in the areas that had been hit badly by the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan.

    After the earthquake a large number of international organisations came and gave their input in the rehabilitation work in the areas. This rush was indeed to succour. Billions of dollars were spent in the affected areas but recent studies on the socio-economic situation in the areas do not show very good results. Those were times when lots of relief items were distributed among the people of the areas. Many organisations carried situation analyses, and based on these, got funds from the international donors. Most of the organisations opted to focus the easily accessible areas where they could carry out their projects with ease. Thus the remote areas were left as they were while the nearby towns got multiple projects in the same sector. A lot of funds went to waste, and the net result remained bleak. Another lapse the international and national organisations were guilty of was to rely on the expertise of outsiders. These outsiders did not have the local context in their expertise. The local expertise was not deemed worthy of participating. Thus the development in these areas lacks sustainability and endurance. Besides, it lacked the need-based approach. The influx of the relief items in the areas, though needed in most cases, have turned the people into mere beggars. Many inhabitants had by then abandoned their work in other places in Pakistan, and in the Gulf states, and had come to settle in the areas in order to get the minimum cash relief of Rs 25,000 or maximum Rs 75,000. Civil society workers, who had rendered services in the earthquake areas, tell us shocking stories of how the people had been turned into mere dependents by providing them with relief without considering the far reaching social and psychological impacts. Not only this, the relief organisations had ignored the poor in the remote areas and poured money into the pockets of the influential figures in the area. This writer had witnessed an event in one of the affected localities where a single political figure managed to get 125 cheques of Rs 25,000 each. To avoid such a situation in Swat, a comprehensive coordination among all the stakeholders is a prerequisite.

    This preamble is to highlight the need to plan and coordinate well before implementing any rehabilitation work in Swat and other districts of Malakand division. The local experts in the education and rehabilitation sectors fear that what had been done in the earthquake-affected areas would be repeated in Swat. Their concern that funds would be used for activities that might not have visible impacts in overall development cannot be simply ignored. The local experts need to be involved, otherwise sustainability will not be achieved. The national and international organisations must evolve an inclusive policy. They need to include the local workforce not only in the workers category but also in the planning and management tiers. Capacity of the local manpower is to be built rather than bringing outsiders on the pretext of their being experienced. This approach must be checked before it goes too far. To illustrate the point, take the example of distribution of food stuff in some areas in Swat. It is said that each child at the government primary schools will get a certain amount of food items for some years. The reason behind this is of course to tempt them to enrol, and discourage dropping out. This may be counter-productive as many parents would send their children to schools to get the ration only, and as soon as the ration stops, the child will stop going to school. The parents may also pull out their children from the private schools and send them to the government run schools. Many projects will focus their plans on children as children are more prone to radicalisation. But the most needed segment in education is the drop-outs, particularly those children who are in their teens and are not receiving an education. They should be focused on first as they are the manpower for the militancy to easily hire, and be lured. The youngsters who have left school after or at the matriculation level — in Swat most youth abandon education at this level due to the acute poverty in the area, especially the remote villages of Swat — should get more of the education projects than younger children as they are the most susceptible to indoctrination.

    The main goals of education are described in the abbreviation KSA — Knowledge, Skills, and Attitude. Among these, attitude change is the most critical domain of education. This change can come by fostering critical thinking but our conventional education discourages it. Nevertheless, a higher education can help to keep the younger folk away from the militancy. On the one hand by continuing higher education the youth can be kept engaged, while on the other they can be useful for social development. But as stated earlier, the people of Swat, especially the inhabitants of the remote villages, cannot afford to carry on their education at the higher or secondary level. They cannot do so because the higher education facilities are beyond their reach. Education is usually the area most of the organisations would love to begin with but they should plan to offer scholarships for the students to carry on their education at the higher level. The government should build colleges, at least in each main town of Swat. The declaration of establishing a university by the NWFP Chief Minister, Amir Haider Hoti, has been hailed by the people of Swat. The work on this project must receive top priority.

    Space does not allow presenting concerns over the construction of roads, hospitals, schools and other physical infrastructure, but in order to understand the issue the example of education is sufficient to begin with. No reasonable person would deny that there are pressing challenges on the ground but they can certainly be translated into opportunities by the will of the government and the people. The writer is a freelance analyst based in Swat, and coordinates Idara Baraye Taleem-o-Taraqi, i.e. Centre for Education and Development there. He can be reached at ztorwali@gmail.com

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End the War(s): U.S. Out of Afghanistan Now, AFP photo

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