SWAT: Violence against those resisting the militancy in Malakand Division is not intimidating the area’s residents.
Unidentified militants in April killed two well-known anti-Taliban activists.
“In spite of these losses, the morale of Swat residents and of the family of Muzaffer Khan is high and we will continue to fight the extremists,” said Ataullah Khan, a former student leader and a relative of one of the victims, Garan Khan.
Gunmen in the Matta Bazaar killed Garan, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) official and Village Defence Committee member, on April 15. Six days later, miscreants in the Jowar area of Buner District April 21 killed Awami National Party (ANP) official Afzal Khan. Officials and residents have condemned the slayings and demanded the government move against the culprits.
History of violence against activists
Attacks against those who stand against insurgents have not been limited to the two most recent cases. In 2013, militants gunned down nine village defence committee members in different areas of Swat District, according to statistics compiled by Central Asia Online.
In neighbouring Buner District, four prominent elders and activists since 2012 have fallen victim to a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) assassination spree, with Afzal Khan as its most recent victim. Garan’s family was noted for supporting security forces against the Taliban and “played a key role in maintaining peace” in Matta, Abdul Baqi, a Matta elder, said. The family has paid dearly for that effort, though.
Taliban militants in May 2011 killed one of his relatives, Muzaffer Ali Khan, a former local ANP president, and in total, the family has endured 11 attacks and lost 14 members, Ataullah Khan said.
Sign of weakened Taliban
The Taliban launched its assassination campaign against anti-Taliban activists partly because the group has been losing sway and the citizens have turned against the extremist ideals, local elders told Central Asia Online. Taliban militants have identified individuals who had organised armed resistance against them and are killing them one by one, National Youth Organisation provincial spokesman Hassan Buneri said.
But that threat isn’t deterring citizens from standing up against the militants. “Local residents are supporting law enforcement agencies against anti-peace elements in the region,” Baqi said.
Efforts to protect citizens
Officials are working to prevent attacks and bring those responsible to justice. “The provincial government has made the special police force, its intelligence and investigative branches active in order to curb the targeted killing of political leaders and residents,” Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said in an official handout.
The local district administrations and police are fully aware of the threat and are protecting residents as well as leaders of various political parties and of anti-Taliban organisations, Swat police officer Akmal Khan said. The Matta Market Traders Association, the merchant group for the bazaar where Garan was killed, has plans to install security cameras and to form small, market-level committees to share information with security personnel.
“We will fully co-operate with law enforcement agencies to maintain law and order in the district,” the association’s president, Haji Abdul Qyum, said.
Residents stand strong
Malakand’s residents have no plans for the Taliban to return to power, they say. “The government has defeated militancy and established peace in Malakand Division through unprecedented sacrifices,” Sardar Ahmed Yousafzai, president of the Kabal Tehsil Bar Association in Swat, said. “The people of Malakand Division witnessed the brutalities of the Taliban … and there is no space for [the Taliban] now,” Feroz Shah, leader of a local anti-Taliban jirga, said.–Asia Online