From News post of today’s The News, Monday, June 01, 2009
The army in Bahrain
by Zubair Torwali, From Bahrain and now in Islamabad
Bahrain is a scenic town in upper Swat generally known as Swat Kohistan. Swat Kohistan comprises the narrow valley beyond Madyan, another scenic town in upper Swat. Bahrain is the main business hub of the adjacent villages with a collective population of over 90,000. The people of Swat Kohistan are ethnically distinct from the rest of Swat. The people of Bahrain speak Torwali while the people of Kalam have their own language called Gawri. The people of both the communities have their own culture as well. The whole valley beyond Madyan is the most visited tourist resort with its tributary valleys such as Daral, Jabba, Ushu and Utrot.
On May 28 the Pakistan army entered Bahrain and was greeted by the local people who came forward with white flags and kept on chanting “Pak Fauj Zindabad’. This is unique in that something like this has happened for the first time in the whole of the troubled Swat valley. It was also unique as Bahrain had been under the control of the Taliban since the beginning of April. When the brave soldiers of the Pakistan army saw this scene they also became emotional and began chanting slogans in favour of the army and the people. The people were so happy at this spectacle of the state forces that they happily carried the ammunition, guns and other luggage of the soldiers to their positions. Even a big gun was carried by 20 local people to a small hilltop above the main town of Bahrain . This was a pleasant surprise for the army as they thought that the people would despise them because, they say, they have gone through such experiences in some parts of the tortured valley.
The people and the soldiers later mixed with each other and exchanged stories. The soldiers then flocked to the shops in order to get the SIM cards of the sole functional cell phone provider. Those who are still in Bahrain told me that initially a curfew was imposed but seeing the enthusiasm and warmth of the people it was lifted after two hours. The locals have even tried to invite the soldiers for dinner despite the fact that food is still short in the whole area. In the wake of this, the army has abandoned shelling of the area and whenever they shell the nearby hills they inform the people before. The people are so jubilant that they have now forgotten about the food crisis and really regard the army as true saviours. This change is important because initially in the previous phases of the military operation — carried out last year and the year before that — the people were most disheartened by what they saw the army’s ambiguity regarding the Taliban militants. And it is in that context that what has happened in Bahrain must be replicated in the whole valley. The war against the militants can only be won by winning the hearts and minds of the local population — and this has been done in Bahrain .
And this will be done only if the armed forces realise that their only real assets are the people of Pakistan and not those who have till now been regarded as ‘assets’ against India or Afghanistan. The real threat for Pakistan is from the enemies within. Of course, there is one major flaw with the current operation and that is of intelligence — proved by the fact that no one among the top leadership of the Swat Taliban have yet been arrested or killed. The people of Pakistan pay for a regular well-equipped and trained army and therefore they are justified in demanding that the said force carry out its constitutional responsibility to protect them from all enemies — from within or without.
Courtesy: Pakistani e-lists/ e-groups, June 2, 2009