There are no indications as to how close the ongoing fighting in the Swat valley in Pakistan is to ending, but the signs of a humanitarian crisis are starting to loom threatening the creation of a third version of the Taliban, along with the displacement of more than two million people from the Swat valley, whilst thousands of others remain under siege with minimal chances of survival.
This is a new war, and Pakistan is witnessing the largest displacement of people since its separation from India. It is a war that is taking place amidst a shortage of information and visuals, something that is not offset by flash reports, official leaks, and wide shots of groups of people fleeing certain death.
Swat is a devastated region.
Local and international complications resulted in the Taliban fighters gaining control over the region, and today the Pakistani government which previously failed to keep control of the region is trying to take back control and regain authority over the region that the Taliban have turned into a minor Kandahar. Just as the Taliban enforced the flogging of women and public executions, photographs have been revealed of the Pakistani army carrying out acts of torture against detainees from the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The issue is certainly not this simple, and involves regional complexities that go beyond Pakistan and Afghanistan. But attempts of discovering the reality on the ground before the start of the offensive and even now, have proven difficult.
The number of journalists covering the Swat campaign noticeably decreased after many of them fled the area in fear of their safety. All newspapers in this region have ceased publication, and reports on the internet are scarce. Those who stayed behind in the area are no longer able to follow the news via satellite channels after the Taliban destroyed the only cable network providing this service. As for the Pakistani authorities, they have imposed a curfew on relief workers and journalists [for their own safety] as they are rarely treated with tolerance by the Taliban movement, especially those journalists who describe them in their reports as “fighters” rather than “mujahedeen.”
What is the number of civilian casualties?
Is the Taliban carrying out quick executions of the citizens in the region?
Will the Pakistani military tactic of preventing food and clean water from reaching the population [in the region] result in the defeat of the Taliban, or the death of those living in the Swat region?
Once again the fate of the poor has been manipulated, they have been thrown into the hands of extremist groups and now they are being rescued in a way that causes them even more suffering.
These are complex and bleak circumstances caused by a number of failures with regard to the Swat valley, and now Pakistan seems to be a country on the verge of explosion. If this explosion takes place, its impact will not be limited to Pakistan alone.
The media is not fulfilling its role in this war, and when we say the media, we do not mean the Pakistani press, but rather the international media. Two and a half million people have been displaced, and the city of Mingora has been almost destroyed, yet we have not seen any images of this city. All we saw was a picture of a father slowly carrying his injured daughter to a hospital. This was one of the few images broadcast by international news channels, and it is an image that makes viewers anxious to find out what is really happening over there.
It is likely that the Pakistani army will succeed in regaining control of the Swat region, but this does not mean we are witnessing the birth of a new Darfur or Somalia.