Archive for the ‘Central Asia Online’ Category

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By Zia Ur Rehman

December 17, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/12/17/feature-01?mobile=true

KARACHI – Desperate to keep their networks alive as Karachi security forces continue to decimate them, Taliban militants and criminals are increasingly extorting schools and hospitals, according to officials.

Karachi police have arrested 9,944 alleged criminals, including 61 extortionists and 102 terrorists, since they launched a targeted operation September 5, according to a December 7 performance report.

But to keep financing their designs, militants and criminals are trying to extort private school owners and doctors.

Taliban militants March 30 attacked The Nation Secondary School in Ittehad Town area of Karachi, killing Principal Abdul Rasheed and a 10-year-old schoolgirl during an annual awards ceremony. Taliban militants and criminals groups are targeting schools and hospitals in Karachi over non-payment of extortion, officials say. [Zia Ur Rehman]

In response to the city’s sharp increase in attacks on schools and hospitals, the provincial government has ordered law enforcement agencies to better protect the vulnerable entities, Sharaffudin Memon, an advisor at Sindh Home Department, said. And the increased security seems to be tamping down the problems.

Such attacks, meanwhile, have drawn broad condemnation.

“Targeting innocent schoolchildren, doctors and patients reflects the brutality of the terrorists,” William Sadiq, a leader of Karachi-based Action Committee for Human Rights said, adding that the targeting schools and hospitals was a continuation of Taliban militants’ hatred of education and humanity.

“Terrorists have no regards even for the sacredness of educational institutions and hospitals,” said Karachi Pakistan Peoples Party spokesperson Latif Mughal said.

Attacks on schools and educators : 

Schools, especially those in Pashtun-populated areas, have been targeted through violence and extortion, school owners say.

Extortionists October 28 attacked the Al-Mehran School, a private school in Orangi Town, for allegedly not paying extortion money, and on October 22 targeted Prince School, another Orangi Town private school.

Militants and criminal groups also have attempted to extort at least 10 private schools in Korangi Town, Faisal Bukhari, a private school owner in Korangi, told Central Asia Online.

Money, however, is not the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) only motive in school attacks; rather, the militants are just trying to hold down future generations by depriving them of education, said Latif Khan, new principal of Naunehal Academy, which he said has received an extortion letter demanding Rs. 5,000,000 (US $46,000) and threats because the school educates girls.

Indeed, militants have bombed more than 1,000 schools in KP and FATA since 2007, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2012, an annual publication by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

Bukhari, however, said extortion cases are declining as a result of stepped-up security.

“Although it is not possible to provide all schools with security, patrols and deployment of police and Rangers have been increased outside the schools where deemed necessary,” he said.

Targeting doctors and hospitals : 

Militants and extortionists are also targeting doctors and hospitals.

TTP militants October 13 attacked a private clinic in the Muzafferabad Colony area, killing one woman and injuring six other people, including children, all of whom had come to the clinic for treatment.

The TTP attacked the clinic because it refused to pay Rs. 2m (US $18,600) in extortion, Quaidabad Police Station officer Nazar Mangrio told Central Asia Online.

Extortionists October 3 carried out a similar attack on the Khatri Clinic in the Gulistan-e-Johar area.

Fortunately, extortion is starting to decline, according to doctors’ groups.

“Law enforcement agencies have arrested several extortionists belonging to the TTP in Sohrab Goth who were threatening doctors and hospital owners,” said Dr. Saeed Shah, owner of a private hospital in Sohrab Goth, referring to an October-November targeted operation.

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By Zia Ur Rehman

November 27, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/11/26/feature-01

KARACHI – Pakistani authorities are carrying out a major anti-crime operation in Karachi meant to restore the nation’s once-booming commercial capital to its glory.

The Pakistani cabinet September 5 gave the green light to engage in “targeted operations,” with the Rangers springing into action that very day.

The operation aims to rid the country’s financial hub of security threats from serious criminals, including militant groups, targeted killers and extortionists, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif said during a visit to the city November 8.

During a November 8 visit to the Rangers’ provincial headquarters in Karachi, Pakistani Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (centre, wearing vest) inspects weapons that law enforcement recovered in a targeted operation in Karachi. In the operation, which began September 5, law enforcement agencies have arrested about 6,000 suspects and are keeping 4,780 in custody, Nawaz Sharif said. [Courtesy of Pakistani Government Press Information Department]

Since the operation began more than two months ago, security forces have arrested about 6,000 suspects, of whom 4,780 remain in custody, the Pakistani premier said.

Cracking down on outlaws: 

The operation by police and the Rangers seems to have had positive effects, officials said. Karachi traders and industrialists agree that they’ve perceived an improvement in the city’s law-and-order situation.

The frequency of extortion and kidnapping has declined significantly in the past two months, Atiq Mir, chairman of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (All Traders Union), a city-wide traders’ body, said.

“The Rangers and police are cracking down on the criminals who want to cripple the country’s economy,” Mir told Central Asia Online.

“Police and the Rangers have successfully shattered the network of extortionists and criminals, and now traders and the business community are ready to invest billions of rupees,” Boltan Market shopkeeper Abbas Jaffery said.

Expressing satisfaction at the performance of the Rangers and police in Karachi, Nawaz Sharif asked the Rangers to make ridding the commercial community of extortionists their focus.

Civil society organisations and major political parties also expressed satisfaction with the progress shown in the crackdown on targeted killers and other criminals.

The operation drove down the number of targeted killings, the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said.

In August, the last month before authorities cracked down, 121 targeted killings occurred in Karachi, according to HRCP statistics. In October, the number fell to 74.

Parties whose spokesmen or leaders praised the operation and said that they were co-operating with it included the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan-Noorani.

Bringing back and keeping bussiness: 

Karachi contributes about 42% of Pakistani GDP and 70% of tax revenue, AFP reported last year.

Because of Karachi’s outsized economic clout, lawlessness there has undermined the entire country, so business leaders asked the provincial government to curb the devastating violence.

Violence in Karachi — which dates back decades and is linked to tensions in the diverse, fast-growing population — is wrecking businesses and industries, Mir said.

The violence and disorder have compelled a large number of traders and businessmen to flee to Punjab Province, Bangladesh, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, Wakil-ur-Rehman, a Karachi-based journalist and analyst, said.

The violence’s total financial impact on the city might be incalculable, Rehman said. By some estimates, a single day’s shutdown of the city costs Pakistan Rs. 7-12 billion (US $64m–$111m).

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By Zia Ur Rehman

October 10. 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/10/07/feature-01

KARACHI – The Sindh provincial government is pressing on with a campaign to clear Karachi of illegal weapons and ban new firearm licences, even though few owners so far have surrendered their guns or ammunition voluntarily, officials say.

The so-called “Weapon-Free Karachi” campaign started September 27 and will go through October 12. It kicked off when the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Sindh Province to rid Karachi of illicit arms and ammunition and to take control of the city’s “no-go areas,” where criminal activity and lawlessness are rife, Dawn reported.

A police officer shows weapons and ammunition seized from a truck on Karachi’s Super Highway in July. The Sindh provincial government’s ‘Weapon-Free Karachi’ campaign will continue until October 12. [Zia Ur Rehman]

“[The] provincial government is trying to make Karachi a city free [of] illegal weapons at any cost,” Sharjeel Inam Memon, the Sindh information minister, said.

“The authorities are asking people through the print and broadcast media to give up their illegal arms voluntarily,” Sharfuddin Memon, an advisor at the Sindh Home Department, said.

Residents are being asked to surrender such items to offices of deputy commissioners and of assistant commissioners and at local police stations, Sharfuddin told Central Asia Online. Those who give up their weapons voluntarily by the deadline will be exempted from prosecution, he said.

But the public response so far has been unsatisfactory, officials say.

“The main reason is that most people may not be aware of the ongoing de-weaponisation campaign even though it has been advertised through electronic and print media,” Ghawar Khan Lagahari, Deputy Commissioner of Karachi West, said, adding that the authorities would make public announcements at mosques citywide.

Sindh Chief Secretary Ejaz Chaudhry also has assigned deputy commissioners to provide records of weapons sales dating back five years to the commissioner of Karachi, the Sindh government said in a September 26 news release.

Aim to curtail illegal arm trade : 

The campaign is part of a law enforcement crackdown on those involved in the city’s illicit arms trade.

Police September 11 raided an arms shop in the Zamzama area of Clifton, where they arrested three suspected members of banned groups and recovered rockets and launchers, Kansan Dean, a senior police officer, said.

“The owner of the shop had a licence to sell legal weapons, but he was selling illegal and imported weapons to members of banned organisations in the city,” Dean told Central Asia Online.

That raid followed a July 23 seizure by police of a truck on Karachi’s Super Highway that was carrying weapons and ammunition. The cargo was destined for terrorists, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the ban on issuing new arms licences will continue indefinitely, Sharjeel said, adding that all old licences would expire by December 31.

At the same time, the provincial government has started building a database of all gun licences in Sindh, particularly in Karachi.

“With the help of [the] National Database and Registration Authority … the government has initiated the process of the registration of arm licences, and it [will] go on until December 31,” Lagahari said, adding that the database would allow the authorities to check licences and detect counterfeit ones.

Countering killings in Karachi: 

Political and religious parties, civil society organisations, traders and other stakeholders in Karachidemanding a campaign against illicit weapons in the city hailed the Sindh government’s decision to launch the drive.

Last November, the Pakistani Senate adopted a resolution by the Awami National Party (ANP), which asked the government to rid Karachi of illegal weapons as well as to restore law and order.

In June 2011, Sindh lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the government clear the province of weapons, especially in Karachi, which has been reeling from high murder rates in recent years. In the first eight months of 2013 alone, as many as 2,056 people were killed there, according to statistics compiled by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) in Karachi.

“De-weaponisation is the need of the hour, and it is a popular demand from the citizens of Karachi,” Farhat Parveen, head of the National Organisation for Working Communities, a Karachi-based rights group, said.

End

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By Zia Ur Rehman

July 7, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/07/08/feature-01

 

KARACHI – Pakistani Muslims’ generosity during Ramadan has encouraged the creation of a “begging mafia” and that some donations could go to militant groups, officials and social activists warn.

A woman begs in the Malir area of Karachi June 28. Authorities are cracking down on professional beggars in Karachi during Ramadan. [Zia Ur Rehman]

“Seasonal beggars” appear during the holiday to take advantage of the Islamic tradition of donating money to help the needy, Rana Asif Habib, the head of a Karachi NGO that works for the betterment of street children, told Central Asia Online.

Now the Pakistani government and religious authorities are taking steps to encourage the proper giving of zakat during Ramadan.

“In Pakistan’s specific security situation, it is important to understand that in some cases donations go into the hands of Taliban militants,” Karachi-based religious scholar Mufti Mustafa Noorani said.

“People should practice vigilance in donating money during Ramadan,” Madani said. “It is a religious duty to know where your zakat donations are going.”

Enforcing the existing laws : 

While seeking alms has benefitted many in need, laws are in place to confront those taking advantage of Pakistani Muslims’ generosity.

Lahore and Islamabad authorities started to crack down on offenders in March and April, according to media reports.

Karachi authorities will do the same at the start of Ramadan, Amin Khan, a local social welfare department official, said. “We will also involve non-governmental organisations in the anti-begging crackdown.”

“After two warnings, they will be put behind bars,” Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said June 21.

Begging is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, Karachi lawyer Zulfiqar Ali said.

Violating child rights : 

Children’s rights activists express concern about a recent surge in the number of children begging. Gangs kidnap children, cripple them to make them more pitiable and trade them off to each other, forcing them to beg, Iqbal Jamil, a children’s rights social activist, said.

“It definitely violates the survival and development rights of children,” he added.

In 2012, as many as 2,317 children disappeared from Karachi and only 16% of them were rescued, according to Roshni Helpline, a Karachi-based civil society group.

As Ramadan nears, the surge in the number of children begging is evidence of organised begging cartels using innocent children to make money during the Islamic holy month, Habib said.

Dire poverty sets the stage for such a trend, the advocates said. Begging cartels, for a sum, offer to take some children off needy families’ hands and take them to Karachi to collect as much charity as possible, especially during Ramadan, Jamil said.

“Begging rackets give only 5% of the collected donations to the children who beg,” he said, adding that the adults drop off the children for begging early in the morning and pick them up at night.

Nuisance to residents : 

Beggars also create minor nuisances.

“My duty is to control traffic, but it becomes difficult for us because beggars are at risk of being run over while they’re at traffic signals asking drivers for money,” Junaid Iqbal, a traffic officer in the Saddar area, said.

And confrontational beggars can make shopping difficult, residents complain. Sometimes they grab shoppers’ arms to demand money, the residents added.

“When someone refused to give them money, they used offensive language,” Abdul Rasheed, a shopkeeper in the Clifton area, said.

End

 

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By Zia Ur Rehman

June 26, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/06/26/feature-02?goback=%2Egmp_2442434%2Egde_2442434_member_253372365

KARACHI – Education has been under attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) for years as Taliban militants have destroyed schools and killed teachers. But the trend now appears to be spreading, police and civil society activists say.

“It seems their campaign of violence against education has moved from the tribal areas to Karachi,” Wali Muhammad, a school principal in the Baldia Town area, said.

Karachi civil society activists May 14 console relatives of Abdul Waheed – head of the NGO Bright Educational Society and owner of a co-educational school in the Qasba Colony area – who was fatally shot by three militants in front of his school May 13. [Zia Ur Rehman]

In their effort to discourage education and to keep girls confined to their homes, militants have bombed more than 1,000 schools in KP and FATA since 2007, according to the Pakistan Security Report 2012, an annual publication by the Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

In recent months, however, Karachi has witnessed attacks on its schools and education advocates – a trend that is new to the city.

In response, the provincial government has ordered law enforcement agencies to better protect schools, Sindh Information Minister Sharjell Memon said, adding that the culprits will be caught and held accountable.

Militants want to deprive people of education

Others discussed the implications of such attacks.

“The attacks we are seeing today in Karachi clearly use the same tactics Taliban militants used in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA,” said Aftab Ali, a Karachi-based educator.

Targeting schools is a continuation of Taliban militants’ hatred of education, Ali told Central Asia Online, adding that the insurgents don’t want people to be able to think for themselves.

“The new trend of attacking schools and teachers in Karachi is very disturbing,” Muhammad, a leader of the Karachi school owners’ association, told Central Asia Online.

Religious scholars say the Taliban’s anti-education stance is not justified.

“Girl’ education is considered un-Islamic by illiterate Taliban militants,” Mufti Mustafa Noorani, a Karachi-based religious scholar, said. “But the fact is that Islamic teaching advised the people to send their children, especially girls, to school for getting an education.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the National Organisation for Working Communities and several other civil society groups condemned the attacks on the education system, saying the strategy will have deleterious effects on the next generation of Pakistanis and its ability to earn a living.

Attacks on schools and educators in Karachi

Some of the recent attacks involving the Karachi education system include the following:

Unknown militants in the Karimabad area May 30 fatally shot educator Syed Azfar Rizvi, head of the Dhaka Group of Educational Institutions and honorary secretary of Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Urdu Pakistan, an NGO that promotes the Urdu language.

On the same day, Rehana Rehman, the owner of a private school in the Iqbal Market area of Orangi Town, was shot in the leg, the Express Tribune reported.

Unknown militants hurled a hand grenade through a classroom window in Orangi Town, injuring three children, on May 24.

Three militants May 13 shot and killed Abdul Waheed, head of the NGO Bright Educational Society and owner of a co-educational school in the Qasba Colony area, in front of his school. His daughter and brother were injured.

In March, a terrorists invading a school in the Ittehad Town area killed Abdul Rasheed – educator and supporter of girls’ education in Pashtun-dominated areas of the city – along with a 10-year girl student during an annual awards ceremony.

Several other children, including Rasheed’s daughter, were injured in the gun and grenade attack.

And unknown culprits March 13 killed social activist Parveen Rehman in the Mangophir Road area.

TTP militants oppose girls’ education

Extremists killed Waheed and Rasheed because of their efforts to educate girls in the Pashtun-populated and impoverished areas of Qasba Colony and Ittehad Town in Karachi, their colleagues told Central Asia Online.

“Waheed … was well-known in Karachi for his education and humanitarian work. He also assisted … Parveen Rehman on the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP),” Afzal Shah, a social activist in the Qasba Colony area, said.

Waheed bettered the lives of hundreds of children by introducing modern education in madrassas, Shah said.

“Some [people] are against teaching girls; they want to snatch the pen from our females,” he said.

Rasheed started teaching school with only a mat and a shelter in Ittehad Town. His son Maaz Khan is now carrying on his work.

“My father had a passion to spread education among our people,” Maaz said. “He used to go door to door and ask the poor families of the area to send their children – especially girls – to the school.”

Nobody has taken responsibility for killing either Waheed or Rasheed, but police and local residents suspect Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants of being behind their killing.

Waheed notified police that he had received threatening phone calls just a few weeks before his murder, Pirabad Police Station House Officer (SHO) Abdul Moeed said, and police were investigating.

Rasheed, affiliated with the liberal Awami National Party (ANP), also received regular threats from the TTP, ANP leaders confirmed.

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by Zia Ur Rehman

June 18, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/06/18/feature-01

 

KARACHI – Calm is returning to Lyari after Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah June 11 ordered police to contain the violence.

One of the oldest areas of Karachi has become a safe haven for criminals, police and local civil society activists said.

Lyari police June 12 participate in the on-going crackdown on miscreants responsible for violence in the area. Authorities arrested several suspected gang members in the operation. [Zia Ur Rehman]

“Lyari has a history of gang wars, fighting between drug pushers and clashes between criminal groups,” Allah Baksh, a social activist living in the Agra Taj Colony of Lyari, said.

Increased wave of violence

A recent spike in violence, however, came after the June 8 killing of a young man, Arif Baloch, in the Kalri area, police said.

At least 24 people were killed and more than 40 were injured, with women and children among the casualties, during the June 9-13 violence, media reported.

The most affected areas of Lyari included Dhobi Ghat, Usmanabad, Bihar Colony and Agra Taj Colony, Lyari parliamentarian Javed Nagori said.

A number of Baloch families have temporarily moved to the Hub, Saakran and Gadani areas of Balochistan; meanwhile, Kutchi families moved to the Kemari and Malir areas, Baksh said.

Despite the history of violence between Balochis and Kutchis, it is clear that outside miscreants are igniting ethnic strife, police officials and local parliamentarians said.

Miscreants belonging to other parts of the city including Baldia Town and PIB Colony are destroying peace in the Lyari area, Southern Karachi Deputy Inspector General of Police Amir Shaikh said.

Four suspects among the arrested belonged neither to the Baloch nor Kutchi community and they were not Lyari residents, he said.

Baksh accused workers of the People’s Aman Committee (PAC) and Kutchi Rabita Committee (KRC) of using Lyari as a battleground to push their agendas.

PAC and KRC leaders blamed each other for fuelling the violence in Lyari.

“PAC-backed gangsters are involved in killing Kutchi people, and KRC is a representative community organisation, struggling for the rights of the community in a peaceful manner,” Kareem Shah Kutchi, a leader of KRC, told Central Asia Online.

PAC leader Zafar Baloch said the Baloch and Kutchi communities have been living in peace for several decades but that some KRC members are destroying the peace in Lyari.

Authorities’ crackdown

While seeking alms has benefitted many in need, laws are in place to confront those taking advantage of Pakistani Muslims’ generosity.

Lahore and Islamabad authorities started to crack down on offenders in March and April, according to media reports.

Karachi authorities will do the same at the start of Ramadan, Amin Khan, a local social welfare department official, said. “We will also involve non-governmental organisations in the anti-begging crackdown.”

“After two warnings, they will be put behind bars,” Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said June 21.

Begging is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, Karachi lawyer Zulfiqar Ali said.

 

Outlaws holed up in different localities in Lyari used hand grenades and automatic weapons against police, media reported, but security forces remain steadfast in the fight.

Police commandos have been placed on the rooftops of 17 buildings and check-posts in violence-hit areas of Lyari, Haji Sanaullah, a senior official at the Kalri police station, told Central Asia Online.

Several suspects accused of involvement in the violence have been arrested, Shaikh said, noting that police discovered a weapons cache during the arrests.

Police June 11 also recovered a bomb weighing 1.5kg, which the Bomb Disposal Squad defused later.

“The bomb was recovered from the Chakiwara area based on information received by suspects arrested during the crackdown,” Sanaullah said.

“The overall situation is peaceful, but gunmen are still firing to create panic and chaos in some areas,” he said.

Peace committee formed

Authorities formed a 10-member peace committee under the supervision of Karachi Southern Deputy Commissioner Mustafa Jamal Qazi.

“Committee representatives from law enforcement agencies, PAC and KRC have held five meetings so far,” Qazi said, adding that both rival groups suggested establishing 17 new security check-posts in affected areas of Lyari.

In order to remove misunderstanding between the rivals, authorities also are holding conference calls with the leaders of both groups, Qazi told Central Asia Online.

The committee is meeting with local leaders of different communities of Lyari to gain their support in maintaining peace in the area, he added.

 

 

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By Zia UrRehman

June 7, 2013

http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/06/07/feature-01

SWAT, Pakistan – As official voter turnout numbers are still coming in from across Pakistan for its May 11 general election, it is becoming clearer that a healthy number of voters – especially of women – testifies to the success of anti-Taliban security operations that began in 2009 in Swat and to the general public’s rejection of militant terror.

A Pakistani woman May 11 casts her ballot in the Haji Baba area of Mingora. For the first time in Swat, all women’s polling stations operated in 2013, despite societal barriers and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan threats. [Courtesy of Zia Ur Rehman]

In stark contrast to the 2008 election, when virtually no women voted in 164 of the 203 Swat female polling stations in districts NA-29 and NA-30, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) statistics show that an unprecedented number of women voted in the same districts in 2013.

In both districts, the overall voter turnout jumped from about 18% in 2008 to 35%, ECP figures showed.

Furthermore, four Swat female politicians won seats set aside for women. Musarat Ahmedzaib and Aisha will represent Swat in the National Assembly (NA), while Nadia Sher and Yasmeen Peer Muhammad now sit in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Provincial Assembly (PA).

The high turnout proves that security forces, which poured into the Swat Valley starting in 2009, have shattered the local terrorist network, Sardar Ahmed Yousafzai, a Swat-based political analyst, said.

“In the name of Islam and Sharia, Taliban militants imposed an inhumane system in Swat [starting in 2007] and influenced the 2008 general polls negatively,” Abdul Mabood, a voter in the Charbagh area, said.

“We do not want that repeated and voted democratically to elect a new government,” he said.

2013: A vote of change : 

In contrast to 2008 – when nearly 81% of women’s polling stations in Swat were not functional – “women fully participated in voting this time,” Fazal Khaliq, a Swat-based journalist who covered the election, told Central Asia Online.

“In this election, the turnout was exceptionally high in Swat,” he said, “even in the upper parts of Swat, which was once a stronghold of Taliban militants.”

The key reason for Swat’s low voter turnout in 2008 was the presence of the Taliban militants, he said.

“Taliban militants were targeting political leaders and candidates in the 2008 polls, which created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty,” Yousafzai said. They killed several political activists and threatened many others affiliated with liberal political parties, especially the Awami National Party (ANP).

Candidates from all political parties in Swat, fearful of Taliban attacks, jointly decided to keep women from voting that year.

“We were too afraid to leave our homes,” Ayesha Bibi, a woman voter from the Barikot area, said, explaining that in 2008, women could not prevent their disenfranchisement.

However, 2013 proved encouraging for political and human rights activists.

All Swat women’s polling stations remained functional and long queues formed outside hundreds of polling stations across the district in defiance of threats by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mabood said.

Swatis, the majority of whom did not exercise their right to vote in 2008, cast their votes this time, Yousafzai said.

A security success : 

In addition to military operations that eroded the Taliban’s presence in Swat, enhanced security measures and the work of activists promoting the election helped to boost voter turnout.

A few days before the general elections, TTP militants warned voters to stay away from political gatherings organised by the three liberal political parties – the ANP, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) – but no major electoral violence occurred in Swat during the election, said Khaliq.

Tough security measures were in effect, with police and army soldiers constantly patrolling across the district. Out of 617 polling stations in Swat, the ECP declared 150 as “sensitive” and 50 as “most sensitive” for security concerns, Swat-based local daily Chand reported. Those deemed more sensitive received more police and security personnel.

With security in place, woman activists of various political parties also played a role in persuading women to vote in Swat, Bibi said.

Electronic media played a positive role in mobilising women to vote as well, she added.

Despite the Taliban threats, the exceptionally high voter turnout, the full participation of women and a peaceful atmosphere contributed to a successful general election – a clear indication that the Taliban have been defeated in Swat, Mabood said.