Posted by Raza Rumi
Zubair Torwali has reported from the field and debunked the perverse myths on the flogging video. This is followed by the brave and daring Samar Minallah’s account of the flogging saga and what more proof do Taliban sympathisers want. PTH is carrying these two pieces in solidarity with these two individuals who believe in a progressive and peaceful Pakistan and condemn militancy at great personal risk.
Swat has witnessed many harsh and cruel days. For about two years, it presented a view of Afghanistan during the heyday of the Afghan Taliban. The man who ignited the situation against the state of Pakistan — Sufi Mohammad — was spared (seemingly by design) for about three years. The MMA was then the ruling government in the province. In 2008, a half-hearted operation was launched under the name of Rah-e-Haq but it was evident then that the action being taken against the insurgents was not serious. However, soon the situation became very grave and serious when the hanging of slit-throated and beheaded bodies became a routine, and the Grain Chowk in Mingora became notorious as the ‘Khooni Chowk’. Upon intense pressure from the people of Swat and the media, the government decided to try and settle the issue peacefully. A long deliberation and negotiations were carried out at the start of 2009 to reach a settlement. In the wake of this endeavour, a peace deal was signed with the Taliban in February 2009. Emboldened by the very apparent capitulation on the part of the government, the militants expanded their writ to the nearby districts of Buner and Dir. The people’s reaction to the peace deal was mixed. Some thought it would bring permanent peace to the Valley but there were many who were cynical and thought that the peace deal was carried out on the terms put forward by the militants. They were of the opinion that since the Taliban were non-state actors, they would not comply with the truce. Their apprehensions proved true and the Taliban extended their ‘rule’ beyond Swat.
When the dilemma reached its peak, there appeared a video sometime in April, wherein the Taliban were reportedly flogging a girl. The video took the media and civil society by storm. To many Swatis the video was not surprising as they had witnessed incidents much more brutal than the flogging being shown in the video. It was perhaps the timing of the video that made headlines and breaking news, or perhaps the fact that seeing is more shocking than hearing or reading. The video embarrassed the provincial government to the extent that its ministers accused the person who had personally brought the video out before the world. The video was also termed as a means to sabotage the ‘peace’ deal. The social activist who dared to show the video was harassed and was shown crying out for help.
Reaction from the Taliban over the video was also confusing but their spokesman accepted responsibility on the grounds that Islam allowed such punishments for adultery. He went on record saying that the girl deserved harsher treatment than the mere flogging but she was spared, thanks to the Taliban.
Now, almost a year has lapsed since the video was shown to the world. On March 30, 2010, headlines announced that the video was, indeed, found to be a fake after investigation. It was claimed that a ‘local’ from Swat confessed that he had been paid Rs 0.5 million by an NGO to shoot the video. This latest scenario about the validity of the video has created some pertinent questions.
First of all, the timing of this news about the bogusness of the video is very important. Is this information meant to malign the military, which has successfully cleared Swat after a yearlong operation? If looks are anything to go by, it appears so.
Secondly, is this a new move to mentally prepare the people of Swat for a comeback of militancy? The news doubting the originality of the video will certainly warm some hearts towards the Taliban. Is all this an initial episode of yet another conspiracy against the people of Swat?
Thirdly, does this video refutation not imply a significant amount of bad press for the NGOs that are contributing towards the rehabilitation of Swat? As the main blame is on an NGO that, as the news would like us to believe, bribed a certain ‘local’ to shoot the video, the people of Swat will eventually begin resenting the humanitarian agencies that are operating there.
Fourthly, why has it taken a full year to investigate the matter? All this could have been concluded in the very beginning.
Lastly, who is this local person and the others who were interrogated in the investigation? When the video was first shown, it was understandable to speak up in the media while requesting anonymity as Swat was in the grip of anarchy. Now, when Swat is in the safe hands of our military, why are these locals still anonymous and unidentified?
I have interacted with many educated and well aware Swatis about this latest development. All were very cynical and angry. They consider this current piece of information to be a part of some big conspiracy.
Amidst such a clumsy situation, they appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take up the issue and investigate the matter in depth so as to let the people of Swat, and Pakistan in general, know the facts about the real situation. A free and fair investigation in this regard by the country’s apex court will unravel the conspiracy.
The writer is a freelance analyst based in Swat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: The Swat flogging: do we need more proof? by Samar Minallah
To: ppfcanada <email@example.com>
|The Swat flogging: do we need more proof?|
|Monday, April 05, 2010
A year has passed since we heard the screams of a girl from Swat and saw how she was flogged by the Taliban in full public view. The Taliban spokesman, Muslim Khan, admitted in clear terms that the Taliban had carried out this act. Not only did he say on international electronic media that the Taliban flogged the girl in public, he also admitted that the case had not been investigated properly before the girl was punished. In addition, he has said it on record that the punishment was not carried out in the manner prescribed by Islam, where a child is supposed to give the lashes out to women. And, he said that the girl should not have been flogged in the open, in the clear view of the public.
Having heard all that loud and clear on TV, are we still wondering whether the incident took place or not? If an Islamabad-based NGO allegedly paid money to film-makers and actors in Swat to make a ‘fake’ video, then did the Taliban spokesman also take money to say that the Taliban indeed carried out the flogging? For those who still think the entire country suffers from memory-loss, please have a look at the video at this web-address, in order to refresh your memory and to decide for yourself if the video was fake:
Much to the disappointment of our ‘conspiracy theorists’ the entire country condemned the incident. People came out on the streets to protest over the incident while the Taliban and their supporters conveniently termed the video as a western conspiracy saying that it was produced at the behest of “anti-Islam forces”.
The same Taliban apologists are again, attempting to engage the people in this nonsensical argument. They ignore how the Taliban used violence against women and men, cutting throats, hanging body-parts in public places and executing people. They seem to have conveniently forgotten all those gruesome beheading videos that were sold openly as ‘Swat-1’ and ‘Swat-2’. All this was not only filmed by the militants but also proudly owned and disseminated by them. None were ‘fake’; none were funded by any anonymous NGO based in Islamabad. The entire world knew about them. Alas, short is the memory of our many arm-chair analysts!
A news item, ‘The Swat flogging video is fake’, (The News, March 29), alleging that the video was a fake did not specify the name or identity of the ‘Swati man’ who claims to have made the video. It does not give the name of the NGO that allegedly paid some ‘local actors’ for acting in the ‘fake’ video. If all they were paid actors, does that imply that the Taliban leaders who admitted that the incident had happened were paid, too?
At a time when the entire country was under threat from militants, I not only brought the attention of the country to this video but also condemned it at the risk of my own life. Much to the disappointment of many “professional conspirators”, the video was made by the Taliban and not by me. My role was merely to bring it to public attention. No NGO made millions by ‘launching’ the video because the video was already present on mobile phones and the Internet since weeks. The only thing “added” to it was open and clear condemnation from me.
In the words of Rehana Hakim from ‘Newsline, April 2009’, “Everyone, it appears, had been silenced into submission by the Taliban guns, including the ruling ANP government. It was shocking to hear an ANP spokesperson, remark that the incident had taken place before the Swat peace agreement, and that the video clip released by a Pakhtun activist to TV channels was intended to break the peace-deal! Did the incident, whether it happened now or six months back, not warrant investigation or condemnation?” If this was not the ‘right time’ to raise a voice in support of the Pakistani girl who was flogged, then can someone tell me when the ‘right time’ to do such a thing is? Thanks to the maligning campaign, I have received death threats, my credibility has been questioned, again, only by those who do not matter. The rest have given me strength and support. The people of Pakistan came out on the streets so that no other girl should be treated in this manner. As for myself, I have been giving voice to the women of this country for the last 15 years, and will continue to do so. I have spoken against all forms of violations and abuse against women. Enough of gimmickry has occurred in the name of politics and religion. Once again the perpetrators of the past are being portrayed as the heroes of today. But the conscious citizens of Pakistan will not let it happen again.
About the authenticity of the incident, Delawar Khan and Alifia wrote in The News dated April 12, 2009 titled ‘Our Collective Shame’. It goes: “I witnessed the flogging myself, so there is no reason to doubt the occurrence,” says a resident of Kala Kalay. At that time about 200 militants and 130 villagers were present to see the flogging of the girl. The flogging was a shocking development for the villagers. They had assembled to watch the screaming girl but everyone was frightened and helpless while the militants were unmoved.”
A senior journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai is quoted in the same article, “The Taliban in Swat awarded punishment of public flogging about 25 times to men and twice to women during the past two years as they consolidated their control in the valley and established their own courts.”
If this is ‘fake’ then what about the way Shabana was brutally killed in front of many silent spectators? All those (visible and invisible) Muslim Khans who remained unmoved have not only defamed our religion but also the integrity of each and every man and woman of Pakistan. Who will ever be held accountable for the thousands of women who were victimised by Maulana Fazlullah? Did those women not belong to this country? Were they not citizens of a sovereign state? If yes, then why did we not reach out to save them when they needed us the most?
All those who protected the Taliban, like the then Malakand commissioner Javed Shah should also be made accountable. Apparently, he has been set free by the court for “lack of evidence” in the whole mayhem that occurred under his nose in Malakand division until the military moved in. As for me, I will continue to challenge those who misuse religion for power and politics. I will continue to raise my voice against individuals and political parties who use my religion to spread hatred. I will continue to expose and challenge the ‘conspiracy’ and ‘propaganda’ theories that try to befool the people of this country. Those who continue to sit on the fence must make their voices heard. It is essentially the sane voice of the silent majority that matters.
The writer is a research anthropologist, documentary film-maker and the director of the NGO, Ethnomedia. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org