The Civilizations may come and civilizations may go, this universal fact is again reminded in the case of the Swat province of Pakistan. The Swat, now under Taliban insurgency had a glorious past under Hindu and Buddhist civilizations.The Swat province is within the north-west frontier province of Pakistan about 100 miles away from the capital of Islamabad. Unlike Afghanistan it is a lush green place with several beautiful lakes, mountains and large meadows. An enchanting place visited by tourists from around the world.
The entire population of the region were Hindus about a 1000 years back. The swat was one of the rarest places where the language in daily use was Sanskrit and.there are still descendants from the old Hindu ancestry among the population now in Swat. The Swat valley had 1400 Buddhist Stupas and exquisite monasteries spread all over the place with gold Buddha idols inside the monasteries for worship. Similarly there were scores of temples with architectural beauty in the valley.The 'Gandhara' country ( birth place of 'Gandhari' ) mentioned in the epic Mahabharata was none other than the present Swat. But they are old stories.
Any religion in its extreme form of practice would bring more harm to the people than good. What is happening in Swat under Taliban is an example. It seems that the virus of extremism is inherent in all religions. Even the seemingly meek Buddhists have had adopted violent methods to spread their religion in the past.
Any way the Swat valley is in utter chaos now, no governance, no education nor any cultural activities. The Taliban militants have almost brought the entire province under their control.This happened while 20,000 Pakistani troop were present there.The Govt of Pakistan was half-mind or was unable to deal effectively the insurgents in time.
The Taliban could infiltrate there as there are religious extremist groups within the Swat province itself, taking vigil round the clock and they got strengthened with the help of Afghanistan counterparts. Gradually they gained strength to control the region.Their first tactics was to abduct and kill the important persons of the province which generally silenced the resistance from local people. The Govt of Pakistan stood all these period as a silent spectator.The latest news is that the Pakistan Govt has agreed the militants' demand to practice 'Sharia law' in Swat from 16th Feb, 2009. It means that Pakistan surrendered completely.
The Swat is not all mountains and valleys. It was a progressive state before Taliban captured it. The place was regularly visited by Pakistanis and others for vacation.The country's largest sky resort was in Swat which the Taliban burnt down.The Mingawara town which was until recently abuzz with business is calm now. The hotels and restaurants have closed business and people hardly venture out of their homes.
The Govt of Pakistan is playing down the surrender of Swat region to Taliban.The wording by the Govt agency was 'some remote tribal area' was attacked by the Taliban forces.The Swat is no remote area. The place is just 100 miles from the capital and is regularly visited by people from far and near.The fact is that Pakistan could not resist the Taliban forces. The Swat is a gem of a place in Pakistan both historically and geographically.When it was pointed out to a European that Swat is the Switzerland of Pakistan, he replied that such a statement would be a compliment to Switzerland.
UPDATE : Mostly from the pressure of the U.S. Pakistan evicted the Taliban people from Swat valley. The schools were reopened and Pakistan was breathing a sigh of relief, when the tragic Malala incident shook the whole world including Pakistan's belief of zero Taliban in Swat. The cold-blooded attack on a poor school-going kid was most horrible and tragic. Now Pakistan is flushing out the remaining Taliban people from there.
Image courtesy : Google