A common slogan of right-wing groups is that if the Americans leave, everything will get better. It’s a seductive thought because it gives such an easy solution. If only the Americans would leave, they would take all of our problems with them. But there’s one part of Pakistan where the problems of violence and killing have been devastating the lives of the people for years until only recently. But it wasn’t the Americans leaving that brought this change, it was someone else.
The lush and scenic beauty of Swat drew people from all over the world for centuries as it had come to be known as a paradise on Earth. With the arrival of Taliban militants, though, this paradise become a hell on Earth. Landmarks were destroyed and the people were brutalised under the tyrannical rule of Taliban militants.
In 2007 Pakistan Army launched operation Rah-e-Haq followed by operation Rah-e-Nijaat in 2009. With the support of the people of Swat at their backs, the civilian government and the Army were able to drive out the militants and restore the writ of state to the area, bringing with it renewed peace and security.
Once the militants left, the mining industry was able to re-emerge bringing “jobs, investment and a certain amount of hope to the area”.
Change is slow to come, however, as militants have left this beautiful region with deep scars both physical and emotional. Below is a photo of the Malam Jabba Ski Resort after being set on fire and destroyed by Taliban militants. It is a scene that depicts the destruction left by militants.
Despite years of physical and psychological abuse, though, the strength and determination of the people of Swat is apparent as they slowly begin to rebuild their homes and their lives.
Today, despite memories of bomb blasts and public display of dead bodies, Swat, with its population of 1.8 million, seems to be tottering back to its feet. The place is getting ready to receive visitors and authorities and hopes that the alpine beauty of the valley with its archaeological sites and trout fishing can beckon back travellers.
Where Taliban militants were destroying the lives of the people it is ironically USAID that is one of the few groups helping to rebuild.
As of June, 2011, working capital and rehabilitation cash grants worth USD 1,158,162 have been disbursed to 261 beneficiary businesses (239 hotels and 22 fish farms) under USAID’s Malakand Grants Program. A total of US$5.25 million has been earmarked for these two sectors, of which US$1.4 million is direct cash assistance in the form of post-conflict and post-flood rehabilitation grants to be released up to 287 beneficiaries on satisfactory completion of their deliverables. The commitment is apparent, and the program is showing great impact.
As of June 2011, construction material, fish feed, fish eggs, hotel supplies, and equipment worth USD 958,654 has been provided to 112 hotels and 35 trout fish farms, out of which 15 are Swat based, while 20 are from other areas of KPK region. The program is expected to provide post-flood reconstruction procurements worth USD 1.7 million to 261 businesses in tourism and aquaculture sectors.
It should be noted that as grants, this is millions in rehabilitation aid that the people of Swat are not required to re-pay to the Americans.
The story of Swat is an example for the nation. Though we have lived under dark clouds for years, it is possible to see the sun beginning to shine through. Our problems will not leave with the Americans, though. As is proven by the example of Swat, our problems leave when the militants leave. The sooner we get rid of them, the sooner we can begin to rebuild our own lives.