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Friday, 23 January 2009

Story of Shabana from Swat: a wedding dancer killed by the Taliban style shariat

Shabana from Swat

Friday, January 23, 2009
by Harris Khalique

Shabana, the artiste from Swat who used to sing and dance to earn her living and make people merry on weddings and other such occasions, was shot in the head in the notorious bloody square of Mingora on the night of Jan 2 and 3. Happy New Year, Pakistan. She was abducted from her home and taken to the square where such executions are carried out. Swat is ruled by the Taliban and butchering of unarmed civilians, political workers, paramilitary personnel and journalists who advertently or inadvertently flout the rules set by them is a daily occurrence. Schools are blown up and women are not allowed to go out and work. The beautiful valley was once the centre of tourism in Pakistan and employed thousands of people in hospitality industry. Besides, Swat was more tolerant and liberal than many other parts of the country. There was more literacy, education and prosperity. Only last week I tried to speak of possibilities, role models and the potential Pakistanis have as a people. It is becoming increasingly difficult for even an incorrigible optimist like me to stay calm, be sane and still find reasons to hope for a better country to live in. The face of the nation is smeared with the blood of its own innocent sons and daughters.

A war is imposed on ordinary Pakhtuns, whether in Swat, tribal areas, Dir, Bajaur or Bannu. The small elite and affluent middle class is moving to Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, the middle class from smaller cities is moving to Peshawar and those with little means are either languishing in IDP camps or have shifted to big and small cities in other provinces for menial jobs and temporary shelter. It is estimated that more than 400,000 are in camps now. The numbers are likely to go up. The poor suffer the most, as in any conflict. It is time for the citizens of Pakistan to demand an immediate end to the suffering of their fellow citizens in Swat and other areas and ask the Pakistani establishment to come off it, for heaven's sake. It is written on the wall that your defence and foreign policies were flawed and you have either not done enough or hoodwinked in the past to control the menace of terrorism. This is eating you up too. Your policies have brought us isolation, disrespect, poverty and suffering in the comity of nations. You cannot pull the wool over our eyes any more. It is time to remove the chip on your shoulder yourself. You wouldn't want others to do it for you. The citizens of Pakistan demand of you to learn from your mistakes and change your policies. We do not want the sovereignty of our country to be put at stake and what you are doing is leading us to that stage. We want to live in a peaceful and prosperous country where all institutions function according to the will of the people.

The citizens of Pakistan also demand that the Americans realise that Islamic fundamentalism in its present form was nurtured by the absence of democratic rule in the Muslim world; the short-sighted and exploitative terms of engagement with Muslim-majority countries employed by the West, which included support to dictatorships, monarchies and oppressive rules; economic injustice meted out to the majority of the population jointly by local elite and Western corporations; and finally the issue of Palestine. The Afghan war of the 1980s provided an opportunity for an alliance to emerge between you and those representing a brooding sentiment of fundamentalism and militant Islam. You thought the sentiment in its militant form would wither away once its support was withdrawn. You were wrong. The only way to resolve this issue now is through strategic handling of militant groups and support for indigenous democratic forces in the Muslim world. This needs extraordinary vision, patience and statesmanship.

Before being killed Shabana asked the men not to slit her throat but shoot her instead. They fulfilled her last wish. (The News)

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: harris@spopk.org

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