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Enemies of education are back in Malala’s hometown?

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

Swat Valley was once ruled by the Pakistani Taliban, who imposed a ban on education for women among other retrogressive measures. Between 2007 and 2009, TTP militants destroyed more than 100 girls’ schools in the region. The Valley is also known for being the hometown of Nobel peace award winner Malala Yousafzai, who was 15 years old when the TTP shot and wounded her a decade ago. At the time, Malala had been campaigning for girls' right to education in Swat and was a vocal critic of Islamist extremists. She had been targeted for continuing her study, in breach of a ban on girls’ education in Swat that had been imposed by the TTP. The Taliban said in 2012 that she had been attacked for promoting "secularism" in the area.


Swat was a stronghold for the TTP until the Pakistani military launched an operation against the group in 2009. However, the group could not be completely defeated and many of its fighters and leaders went into hiding in the lawless border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group's sporadic attacks continued even after the 2009 military operation. It forced over a million people to leave their homes and take refuge in various parts of the country. They were only allowed to return when the operation ended a few months later. In 2014, TTP militants attacked a military-run school in Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren. Two years later, a major Pakistani military offensive drove the TTP militants from their strongholds in northwestern Pakistan and across the border to Afghanistan, where the TTP leadership took refuge.


But a decade on from the TTP’s brutal attack on Yousafzai, who survived after months of treatment at home and abroad, history appears to be repeating itself.

In recent months, hundreds of fighters belonging to the TTP, have been returning to the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including in Yousafzai’s native Swat Valley. The militants have been accused of carrying out targeted killings and extorting locals. Suspected militants fired on a police party in the valley, fueling speculation that the TTP, which aims to set up an Islamist state in Pakistan, is regaining strength in the area.


There has also been a terrorist attack on a school van in the Swat district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in october which confirms the return of the extremist groups that had imposed their anti-education agenda on the region a decade ago by bombing schools, particularly schools for girls, banning girls’ education and attacking students. Armed men on a motorcycle opened fire on the school van, killing the driver and injuring two children who were travelling to school in Swat. The attack refreshes the memories of the attempted assassination of Malala in 2012 when she was only 14 years old. Thousands of people staged a sit-in protest in Swat, demanding the arrest of those behind the most recent attack on the school van.

The TTP’s comeback is nothing short of a nightmare for the people of Swat. The demonstrators have also directed their anger at the authorities for turning a blind eye to the return of the militants. People of Swat don't want the return of the Taliban here again; they believe that it will also affect the education of their children, just like it affected every sphere of their lives before.

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Thank you for highlighting this pressing issue! What's surprising to me is that this is not being covered by every major news channel in the country. The public has reacted with scores of protests and sit-ins in recent months. The demonstrators have also directed their anger at the authorities for turning a blind eye to the return of the militants. In August, the military's media wing said the TTP presence in Pakistan was "grossly exaggerated and misleading." But the locals disagree. A lawyer in Swat said "The government has closed its eyes while the threat is standing right in front of them,”. He also said that those who had previously borne the brunt of the TTP's brutality, were determined to…


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TTP's return in swat and its celebration my military is a huge red flag for girls education there. Becuase, earlier these girls were attacked based on containing "anti-islamists" views that getting education is not necessary for girls and that girls are required to stay home and an opposition to which lead to incident like Malala's attack. and now the return, no more shows any good signs. As these parties are heavy influenced by Afghanistan's political parties and have been prone to their decisions, it is most possible that similar reforms in education of girls in afghanistan i.e. girls to study by being covered head-to-toe coverage, no playing area and all female teachers school, might soon be implemented by TTP …

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Great post. I would just like to add that between 2007 and 2009, TTP militants destroyed more than 100 girls’ schools in the region. The recent events of violence just show this trend being repeated. Despite international pressure, the Taliban in Afghanistan has banned the education of teenage girls in most provinces of the country. This could very well be the reality of Pakistan as well. The state needs to wake up and take an action rather than waiting for another instance like Malala’s to repeat.

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This post helps highlight one of the most important aspects in Pakistan that is the involvement of military in politics and how TTP was just welcomed back as if they were their so called brothers. This post also reflects the importance and status of women in Pakistan, how TTP had targeted schools and placed restrictions on women specifically. The question really is that what is Pakistan waiting for, Malala was one girl that stood up what if a similar situation is going on right now and no one can stand up, neither is the media covering it.

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There are 2 things I would like to point out, when it comes to the return of TTP, and the disparity between political narratives and local narratives surrounding it.

The local narrative is, as you have pointed out, that citizens have come out in protests against the TTP. We all saw the videos of the massive protests just a few weeks ago. However, we saw these only on twitter, not on any of the news channels (mainstream or otherwise). We have to ask ourselves why political leaders like Imran Khan can come and make statements like he would rather engage with the TTP than with who he considers his opposition (a highly distasteful statement given the national trauma regarding this…

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