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Swabi may go militants’ way

March 18, 2013

PESHAWAR, March 17: The shadows of fear and uncertainty that dominate Swabi, home to the country’s largest hydel power house and producer of the world finest tobacco, have caused serious concerns among the population of the district.

Owing to killing by emboldened gangs and bombing of schools, the elected representatives of the district equate it with the lawless tribal areas where ‘administration does nothing to protect the life and property of people.’

Talking to Dawn, MPA Javed Khan Tarakai portrayed a dismal picture of the situation in the district and termed Swabi ‘another North Waziristan’ while Awami National Party MPA Advocate Mukhtiar Ali said that district administration and provincial government seemed ignorant about the state of lawlessness in the area.“Some outsiders and local criminals have ganged up and local administration has become silent over the situation,” said Mr Tarakai, adding there were speculations about targeted operation by the law enforcement agencies.

Local sources said that troublemakers surfaced in Swabi during the last one and a half year. According to reports more than 10 attacks had been carried out against police and NGO workers and schools since January last.

People running CD shops have closed down their businesses owing to bomb attacks and threats. There are reports that police had abandoned night patrolling in the district in the wake of attacks.

Six senior officials of different secret agencies have been killed across the district in less than one year.

Seven persons including six women working for a NGO were killed in broad daylight on January 1. About 25 schools have been bombed in the area so far that shows severity of the law and order situation. The modus operandi employed in these acts shows that Taliban were responsible for the subversive acts but no efforts were in the sight to take them into account.

Few days ago a landlord was shot dead in Shewa village on Mardan-Swabi Road when he refused to pay Rs10 million to unidentified telephone callers. But police and other law enforcement agencies are clueless about the network of the gangs involved in such acts.

Swabi district plays crucial role in boosting country’s economy because of power generation and its fertile lands.

Tarbela Dam generates 3,478 megawatts electricity while Ghazi Barotha power project, which generates 1,450 megawatts, had its reservoir in Swabi. The district is called ‘house of tobacco’ because of producing the finest quality of tobacco. It produced tobacco worth Rs172 billion in the year 2011-12.

MPA Mukhtiar said that unidentified gangs were carrying out their activities brazenly and preached against female education and NGOs. “One radicalised youngster damaged signboard in front of an under-construction degree college for women in my constituency and left the venue with a warning that he will not allow girls education in the area,” he said.

The MPA said that another under-construction higher secondary school for girls was blown up in his area. “Everybody is perturbed over lawlessness and I have discussed the issue with the chief minister many times but he can do nothing, unfortunately,” he smiled.

Liaquat Yousafzai, an office-bearer of local farmers’ association, said that large numbers of strange outsiders had occupied seminaries and mosques in the area, but police could not verify their names and places of origins.

Only in Yar Hussain area, he said, about 160 families had come from other district, but nobody had asked their whereabouts.

Mr Yousafzai said that a higher secondary school constructed at a cost of Rs20 million in Dagai village was damaged by alleged militants using explosives.

“The dilemma is that schools are bombed and target killing is order of the day, but no group has so far claimed responsibility for these acts,” he added.

He said that local ulema had never opposed female education, but girls’ schools were under attack.

“Swabi was peaceful and people were tolerant. But these are stories of the past and now everyone feels endangered,” Mr Yousafzai said.