"Pakistan’s military operations against the Taliban in Swat, begun in May under public pressure from the United States, has been hailed by Washington as a showcase effort of the army’s newfound resolve to defeat the militants. [...]
"Now, concerns over the army’s methods in the area threaten to further taint Washington’s association with the military, cooperation that has been questioned in Congress and has been politically unpopular in Pakistan.
"The number of killings suggests that the military is seeking to silence any enthusiasm for the Taliban and to settle accounts for heavy army casualties, said a senior provincial official who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprimand by the army.
"A sullen, uncertain atmosphere prevails in Mingora, where people interviewed last week in shops, homes and government institutions nervously complained of the arbitrary and unpredictable army rule.
"Bodies, some with torture marks and some with limbs tied and a bullet in the neck or head, have been found on the roads of Mingora and in rural areas that were militant strongholds.
"Reports on Sept. 1 in two national daily newspapers, Dawn and The News, said the bodies of 251 people had been found dumped in Swat.
"A well-to-do landlord, Sher Shah Khan, who had criticized what he termed the army’s early reluctance to confront the militants, said he was not worried about the reports. 'If the security services kill in the same manner as the Taliban killed, people have no problem.'"
"The landlords, many of whom raised sizable militias to fight the Taliban themselves last year, say the army is again failing to provide enough protection if they return.
"Another deterrent to returning, they say, is that the top Taliban leadership, responsible for taking aim at the landlords and spreading the spoils among the landless, remains unscathed.
"If it continues, the landlords’ absence will have lasting ramifications not only for Swat, but also for Pakistan’s most populated province, Punjab, where the landholdings are vast, and the militants are gaining power, said Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to Mr. Holbrooke, the American envoy.
"'If the large landowners are kept out by the Taliban, the result will in effect be property redistribution,' Mr. Nasr said. 'That will create a vested community of support for the Taliban that will see benefit in the absence of landlords.'"
"In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.
"To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.
"The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.
“'This was a bloody revolution in Swat,' said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. 'I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.'
"The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal."
A short documentary profiling an 11-year-old Pakistani girl on the last day before the Taliban close down her school.
In the course of this moving video, a young girl, her face veiled to conceal her identity, bravely reads the following speech at a school rally:
"Swat Valley: the land of waterfalls. Lush green hills and other gifts bestowed upon it by the nature. But my dear friends, today Swat has in the past few years become a heartland for Pakistan Islamic militancy. Today, this idyllic valley of peace is burning. Why the peace of this valley is destroyed? Why our future is targeted? Schools are not places of learning but places of fear and violence. Our dreams are shattered. And let me say, we are destroyed."
"Much media attention has focused on the worsening plight of women in Swat, particularly after the video-taped public flogging of a 17 year-old girl. Unfortunately, the kinds of atrocities perpetrated by the TNSM against women also occur in the feudal holdings of many of the "secular" political elite of Pakistan. Yet these incidents do not make headlines in the same way. Few Pakistanis can ignore the fact that restricting women's mobility and reducing their educational opportunities (as the TNSM intend to do) along with gang rape, abduction, and honour killing have a long history in southern Punjab and Sind, areas where both President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani have vast landholdings."