Pakistanis have come out of that ominous state of baffled, bamboozled and befuddled apathy and now showing the same signs of unity and sacrifice that we had witnessed after the 8th October, 2005 earthquake.
Especially the people of Swabi, Mardan and the suburbia villages have set an example of extreme human sacrifice and the generosity. More than 3.5 million people have become internally displaced from the war-torn Swat and FATA and only six percent of these IDPs are living in the camps setup by the government, while rest of them have become guests of the common people in various cities of North West Frontier Province.
That is why we decided to reach out to the IDPs, people who are in the homes of others. We reached Shahbaz Garhi, a remote village near Mardan with our small truck load of relief goods, and started knocking from door to door to distribute dry edibles, mediciens, some fans, and other things.
It was during this effort that I came across, Palwasha - a beautiful sad looking teenage girl. She shyly asked me to give her some clothes, which I didn’t have but I promised her to send it through parcel, the very next day.
In talking to young Palwasha I learnt much I did not know. What the media had never told me, Palwasha revealed between her tears and anger.
Palwasha was living in a small village near Charbagh area with her three sisters and parents, and all of them remained oblivious to the skirmish between government and Taliban, and perhaps that became their sin of which they paid dearly. They didn’t see any thing differnet when Taliban promised them Shariah, she said, because they were Muslims already and certainly liked to have a Muslim law. They wanted speedy justice and equal opportunities, besides they didn’t want to look like opposing the Shariah law. And so, they welcomed the Taliban.
Palwasha’s family was just yet another family from the Charbagh area of Swat, which is rich in beauty but lacks most development amenities. Her father was a miner in an Emerald mine, and when Taliban came and forced them to take their way and occupied the rich mines, the earnings of Khanzada, father of Palwasha, were slashed to less than half. As usual, the first cut the family made was to terminate the education of all the sisters, and then upon food. Things were tough, and Palwasha’s family was unable to comprehend this Talibanic Shariah.
Palwasha told me that early one morning, five Taliban came smiling to their home and one of them told her father to marry his four daughters to the four Taliban accompanying him right now. He father showed some presence of mind and instead of refusing asked one day for preparations. When Taliban came next day, the whole village opened fire at them from the rooftops, and after killing all three dozens of them, they fled the area.
According to Palwasha, that became common occurrance in the villages and even in the cities of the Mingora, where Taliban asked for forced marriages. At some places Taliban gave three choices to the family: marry the girl, furnish boy for fighting, or pay Rs. 50,000.
Palwasha got quite gloomy and said, “I have no idea when I will be able to go back to my home in Swat. Such is life there these days.”
Note: Ghazala Khan runs the blog The Pakistani Spectator, and had visited these IDPs along with her colleagues to distribute relief goods.