top of page

Swat conflict ; A consequence of Zia’s extremist policies?

Zia during a visit to the White house. Image credit; Dawn.

Swat conflict ; A consequence of Zia’s extremist policies? Image credits: Dawn The Swat Conflict in the first decade of the twenty first century was a result of the socio-economic changing environment that initiated with Zia’s extremist policies which were followed by similar state policies vis a vis national security. Swat is a district in the Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is surrounded by beautiful mountains and a river. The Swat heaven turned into a living hell with the takeover of the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan in the late 2007 till 2009. The religious extremist organization took over the valley and a violent, horrifying and armed conflict broke out between the mullah militias and the state’s army. The TTP ( Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan),as soon as they took over, implemented their radical version of Islamic Shariah Law. They banned women education and resisted the western education for males too while promoting the Madrassas in their territories.

A destroyed school in SWAT.

“The Taliban enforced its strict interpretation of Shariah law when they were in power” and those shariah policies of the TTP rule in Swat destroyed the lives of many people. They openly attacked any resistance or individuals that opposed their ideology. Many schools burned, bomb blasted, and some were used by the state military as their chekpoints. Their attacks were everywhere in the Swat region but mostly the “attacks targeted and destroyed government buildings, particularly schools and hospitals” (Avis). “During this outbreak of violence, militants gained control of most of the Swat Valley and an estimated 80,000 girls were forced out of schools” (Zafar, 2011).The reason for these attacks was very obvious ; Modern education is against their ideology. “The Taliban do not like the modern education of both male and female but unlike male education they openly oppose female education. “(Avis).

Their rise in the Swat region was not just a matter of two years rather it reflects the by products of the Zia’s policies of Islamization, Radicalization, and his holy Jihad mission in Afghanistan. The rest of the country might have somehow recovered after his death however, the socio-economic condition of the people radicalized in the Pashtun Tribal belt ( FATA) did not let the Pashtuns recover from this menace. The Swat conflict already started in the early 90’s when a Mullah Sufi Muhammad established the “Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi” in 1992 and started radicalizing the Swat Youth for the Jihad.( SATP). They saw a growing demand for the Islamic Shariah in the region and started to take over villages slowly. The TSNM then made an alliance with the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan and exercised their power to the extreme level during their take over of the Swat region in late 2007. “The TNSM/TPP had established control of 59 villages in the region and as much as 70 percent of Swat Valley” (Orakzai, 2011). Image credits: Daud Khattak.

Souce: AFP

Their rise in power can be analyzed by looking at the patterns that we saw of the extremist Jihadist groups. These groups first hunt the socio-economic condition of the youth and then radicalize them by making one enemy and then calling it “Fitnah” and then with the help of influential Mullahs “ They will issue a “Fatwa” against that enemy and starts recruiting youth as their Jihadi buddies. This kind of pattern seems very much similar to that of Zia ul Haq. He first presented his narrative of islamization to the nation and as seen the people from lower, and middle classes liked his narrative. He then made Soviet invaders in Afghanistan a common enemy of Islam. The people in the tribal pashtun belt, and from all over Pakistan adhering to his extreme ideology started recruiting them as the “Mujahideen”. Zia not only supported the Madrassas but was a great propagator of the extremist recruiting centers so called the madrassas at the time. To conclude, looking at the patterns of the islamic extremist groups in Pakistan and in particular in the Swat region, it appears to Zia Ul Haq’s policies that resulted in the formation of the TSNM and then the later Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan and resulted in a bloody and brutal conflict in the Swat region at the cost of unarmed civilians, thousands of children, and women.


Avis, William. (Drivers of conflict in the Swat Valley, Pakistan). Orakzai, S. (2011). Conflict in the Swat Valley of Pakistan: Pakhtun culture and peacebuilding theorypractice application. Journal of Peace Building and Development Vol. 1: No. 14. "Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Extremist Group of Pakistan". SATP. Archived from the original on 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2007-04-19. Zafar, R. (2011) Development and the Battle for Swat. The Fletcher School Online Journal For Issues Related To Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization. Spring 2011.

22 views2 comments


I think the socio-political context and its link with education is an interesting one because it starts a conversation about the viability of institutionalizing education and how doing so can create conflicts in areas where there is already increasing divergence.

Talha Taj
Talha Taj
Dec 12, 2022
Replying to

Exactly, that is a very important perspective when it comes to the over talibanization of the tribal belt and Swat region. Most of the pashtuns who joined the Taliban or mujahidin were mostly from the class where they could not afford modern education and that is where the state and jihadist militant factions started brain washing the generation with radical idealogies through radical madrassa education.

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page