Read the Washington Post online chat with reporter David Montero about this story.
High in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province, the Swat Valley has long been an idyllic vacation destination, just 100 miles from the country’s capital, Islamabad. But Swat is also not far from the border with Afghanistan, and in the past two years, Taliban fighters have moved into the region. Joined by local insurgents, they have formed a new “Pakistani Taliban” that is trying to take over the region.
In October 2007, these Taliban forces launched an offensive, overrunning 60 towns in the Swat Valley and declaring a jihad or “holy war” against the U.S.-backed government of President Pervez Musharraf.
“I’ve come here to understand how this valley became a terrorist haven,” says FRONTLINE/World reporter David Montero, as he goes into a region that is now off-limits to most journalists. Once the crown jewel of Pakistan’s tourism trade, Swat is a battleground. The hotels are empty, the buildings pockmarked by bullets.
Wearing local clothes to blend in and guided by local journalists, Montero sets out into the streets of Swat’s capital, Saidu Sharif. The population is mostly Pashtun, the same ethnic group as the Afghan Taliban. But in the past, the people of Swat have resisted extremism and violence. Montero meets a pious Muslim man who tells him that Taliban militants tried to impose their violent brand of Islam on his mosque. “We told the Taliban, we are Muslim,” he recalls. “But in the Sharia [religious law] we follow, there should not be violence. Innocent people cannot be killed. With all due respect, please leave.”
But the Taliban were entrenching themselves, building a $2.5 million madrassa, or religious school, on the outskirts of town. It became the base for their leader, a mysterious cleric known as the “radio mullah” for his sermons and tirades broadcast by his pirate radio station. His name is Maulana Fazlullah.
Montero first met Fazlullah in the spring of 2007, when he was reporting in Swat for the Christian Science Monitor. Montero is the only Western correspondent to interview the publicity-shy Taliban cleric, who represents a new brand of Pakistani extremism that experts have been warning about since 2005. At the time, Fazlullah had not yet begun his violent uprising, but he told Montero he hoped to wipe out the darkness of Western ideas and influence. Fazlullah also refused to allow Montero or anyone else to photograph him, but Montero managed to obtain a brief video of Fazlullah shot secretly inside the madrassa. It is the only known video of the reclusive Taliban leader.
“We should remember the Taliban were never defeated by the Americans,” notes Ahmed Rashid, author of Taliban and one of Pakistan’s leading journalists. “They were routed, and they fled Afghanistan and came to Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda, who are living in Pakistan, have nurtured a whole new generation of Pakistani extremists. So, this is a very, very dangerous phenomenon.”
When Fazlullah’s men started capturing local police stations and seizing weapon arsenals, the people of Swat began to plead with the government to take action. But Musharraf’s regime responded slowly and half-heartedly, sending in the Pakistani Frontier Corps, a poorly trained civilian militia, low-paid and outnumbered. The Taliban decimated the fighters, leaving their bodies to rot in fields and later taking a local TV camera crew to photograph the horrific scene. The Taliban also murdered a policeman and others who stood in their way, frequently beheading them and leaving notes that read, “Those people who serve America, the same thing will happen to them.”
Terrorized by Fazlullah’s forces, many in Swat turned to one of their traditional leaders, Asfandiar Amir Zeb, a prince whose family ruled the region for 100 years. A moderate, Asfandiar has been a leading voice against the Taliban. He explained to Montero that Fazlullah was able to attract a following in Swat because of popular discontent with the Pakistani government, which, he said, had grown corrupt and neglected to develop the region.
“Quick justice and efficient government, this is something that the people wanted and this is what the people saw in [Fazlullah],” the prince told Montero. But once Fazlullah’s violent agenda became apparent, most turned against him. For Asfandiar, the battle was personal, as his family had long resisted Islamic extremism. They are the most renowned family in the valley: Asfandiar’s grandfather became president of Pakistan, and he proudly displayed a photo of his grandfather with Jacqueline Kennedy.
Despite public appeals by Asfandiar and others for government intervention against Fazlullah, Musharraf did little. Emboldened, the Taliban unleashed a suicide bomber to blow up a truckload of Frontier corpsmen, killing 20 and wounding many civilians.
Locals were outraged. “This Maulana, he has disgraced the name of Swat,” an angry man tells Montero in a street interview. “Belonging to Swat has become a curse for us.”
Finally, two months into the uprising, Musharraf acted, ordering 20,000 soldiers into Swat and declaring a national emergency on November 3. Hundreds of Fazlullah’s men were killed, as the army regained control of the major towns in the valley. But Fazlullah and his top commanders escaped into the mountains, where they continue to launch attacks. “I think the operation has been a total disaster,” Rashid tells Montero. “The military moved in, as usual, far too late….This could have been nipped in the bud two years ago by a small police operation.”
There was still a great deal of tension in the area. But there was also a parliamentary election in progress, and Asfandiar, the prince of Swat, decided to run for a seat in the national assembly, despite the obvious dangers. Montero followed Asfandiar, as he campaigned among his constituents in rural villages. Trying to calm nerves and reassure people, Asfandiar urged them to take part in the elections, but he also feared that Fazlullah was just biding his time, waiting to strike again.
A critic of the government, Rashid blames Musharraf for having an inconsistent policy toward extremists in Swat and in the tribal areas along the Afghan border – sometimes he appeases militants by offering truces and payoffs, sometimes he cracks down on them. This “dual policy,” says Rashid, has confused and demoralized the army, as well as the public, who have lost confidence in the army’s ability to defeat Taliban militants.
Another reason for Musharraf’s reluctance to go after Fazlullah in Swat, says Montero, is that Musharraf has been preoccupied with preserving his own power. For most of 2007, Musharraf faced a constitutional crisis. Many lawyers, judges, students and middleclass moderates wanted Musharraf to end his nine years of military rule. The Supreme Court was on the verge of preventing him from running for another term as president. Instead of immediately cracking down on terrorism in Swat and elsewhere, Musharraf dismissed his Supreme Court and arrested thousands of lawyers who supported the judges.
In Islamabad, police beat lawyers protesting outside Pakistan’s election commission, including the leader of the movement, Aitzaz Ahsan. “General Musharraf is probably the most unpopular man the country has seen in a very, very long time,” Ahsan tells Montero, before Musharraf put the famous lawyer under house arrest. Ahsan’s son, Ali, recalls that his father was arrested by armed men, who threatened to shoot him if he protested.
Musharraf faced another political challenge when opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, returned from exile to challenge Musharraf’s party in the parliamentary elections. Her assassination in a suicide bombing after a campaign rally on December 27, 2007, shocked the world and led to rioting throughout Pakistan. The country edged further toward chaos.
The next day there was another assassination, this one back in Swat. A politician and seven others were killed by a remote-controlled car bomb. The politician was the prince of Swat, Asfandiar, who had stood up to Fazlullah. Thousands of mourners gathered at Asfandiar’s house, their grief and pain intensified by the murder of Bhutto.
“Obviously, we are still in a state of shock,” Asfandiar’s brother, Shahryar, tells Montero when he returned to Swat in January of this year. “I will not let his legacy die,” he vows. “I won’t let his hard work go to waste.”
Visiting Asfandiar’s grave on a rainy afternoon, Montero ponders the loss of yet another moderate voice in the fight against the Pakistani Taliban and wonders who might emerge to resist the still rising threat of extremism.
As the widow of Asfandyar Amirzeb I felt an urgent need to express my views. Asfandyar will always be remembered as a shining beacon amongst the present politicians. He was an intelligent, dedicated, upright and very honest man, a rare commodity in Pakistani politicians. He had a Midas touch with the common man and his loss has not only been a loss to his family, but to the whole nation. The suffering of the people of Swat has to stop,which can only happen with the help of the local people. The common man is bleeding. Asfandyar's house, family and livelihood are in ruins, like countless other affectees. Swat is a part of Pakistan, criminally neglected like so many other troubled areas of the Frontier. The solution lies with the people of Swat, myself included, to stop these atrocities. We must unite and drive out the insurgents if we are to regain control of Swat and restore peace.
Great work, but the situation is alarming for Pakistan.
Taliban: they are the creations of the ISI & CIA [the Pakistani and US intelligence agencies]
Swat: this heaven on earth is burning today because of the failed policies of the USA and Pakistani governments. The ISI & CIA had worked with stupid Islamic clerics to convince them that it's a holy war. The clerics and their followers all were thinking that by doing all this they will go to heaven.
Instead of fighting with them, I think that Pakistan must send some real Islamic Clerics who are following Islam truly and spreading the real essence of Islam i.e peace -- clerics like Maulana Tariq Jamil, Doctor Israr Ahmed, Maulana Ehsaan, Maulana Ahmed. Here the Govt. must try to convince people that its not a Holy war and that you all will be in hell if you don't abandon your violent activities -- i.e ISI & CIA officials must tell them that they have used them in the name of Islam and this fight has nothing to do with Islam.
Nobody can win a guerilla war even the highly equipped armies of the world have lost guerilla wars: Britain in Afghanistan, US in Vietnam, Russia in Afghanistan, India in Kashmir, Pakistan in Bangladesh; now, the US is losing in Iraq and NATO is losing in Afghanistan.
I also want to share another thing that in December 2007, we sent some food items to Afghanistan. The driver told us that EVERYWHERE in Afghanistan, the Taliban are in control. They took all the food items from him. He went to 12 cities and said that [Afghan president] Karzai is controlling only Kabul. NATO is present only on the safe side of Afghanistan where Taliban were not present during their years in power.
The report did not mention the fact the Mullah Fazlullah aka Mullah Radio has been broadcasting radio messages for a very long time and to this date the army has not managed to triangulate the signal instead giving lame excuses. Another thing: Fazlullah's forces have melted away to the mountains and have changed their tactics from fighting on a battlefield to suicide bombings.
I would like to correct Jon [see the thread of comments below] that our nuclear assets are not in any way going to find their way to the hands of extremists. With over 90% of Pakistan's people AGAINST Musharraf its time for him to go but the Americans are really not bothered about this in any way. They still support the real terrorist. Musharraf is the only reason why we are in such trouble, by using the ISI they fund and support Fazlullah so that they can create an excuse for Musharraf to remain in power and eat as much money as he can that comes for fighting the war on terror at the cost on innocent Pakistani lives.
Aziz Ahmed Khan
I belong to Swat, both of my parents were born there. I wish I can go and settle there. I wish it developed more than Southampton in UK and Stuttgart in Germany.
We Pakistanis are prisoners of 2 extremes. It was the US and Musharraf who started the first extreme and then the Taliban are extreme on the other side...
Please let us live our way.
I miss you, my Swat. I miss the sound coming out of streams and the birds there. I miss the chilling breeze there.
There is nothing like moderate Islam. Islam is extremist for the Koran teaches and propagates hate against non-Muslims. It invokes jihad against the infidel. This cleric [Fazlullah] is using these verses to justify his acts...No wonder this cleric is against Musharraf and is beheading fellow Muslim policemen/army men on payrolls of the Govt of Pakistan. Modern education, jobs, etc. are only cosmetic cures. There is no precedent in Islamic History that it has lived peacefully with others or was not riddled with internal extremist strife towards a secular government. Pakistan is at the crossroads and trapped in a dilemma which I doubt it can come out of, given its support of jihad in Indian occupied Kashmir.
Great work. Let us be honest withourselves that today's terrorists were the heros of the western powers yesterday. Osama, the alleged master mind of terrorism, was imported by the Americans and planted in Afghanistan to avenge the Vietnam war. Afghans and Muslims on either side of the Durand Line were mutilitated, humiliated and crushed. The same war is still going on. The victims the same innocent Muslims/Pathans.
One thing becomes clear: the American people cannot be absolved of the charge of having double standards...They are not thinking as to who initiated the war and who is augmenting it.
The support to the Military regime in Pakistan and unflinching support to the Military dictator even today is the main reason for prolonging the ongoing "alleged war on terror." Known to all, Pathans cannot be subdued under the shadow of guns. Jirgas, dialogues and parleys at all levels can solve the problem very quickly and for all.
I appreciate the Frontline efforts in making an independent research and propounding true picture of the sentiments and views of the people of Swat. Being a Swati, I am definite in my view that the people are peace loving Muslims to the core of their hearts and very friendly and lovely. But they are being destroyed under the "planned" scheme of the western interests and their stooges in Pakistan.
Through your august forum I appeal to mankind to put pressure on Bush and the American administration to withdraw their hands from destroying the innocent Muslims....
The efforts of the FL and its report Mr. David [Montero] are laudible.
To everyone above who is concerned about how all this will affect America, please care for the sake of humanity. The Swat valley was my childhood, the warmest, most genuine and hospitable people imaginable. And now their collective lives are being thrown to the dogs. As long as you view everything from the perspective of your national interests you will keep on taking the wrong sides at some stage or the other. Care for the valley, for the people, they are after all your fellow human beings.
It is a nice documentary, but the root cause of problem is not discussed in it nor the actual date when the real problem started. The problem started back in 1994 by Sufi Muhammad (father in law of Fazlullah aka Radio Mullah) started movement to provide easy and quick justice in Swat. Why Sufi started all this was because the Government of Pakistan removed all the district courts working in Swat since its merging with Pakistan(1960's) because of lack of funding. That was a start of the disaster which made it very difficult for locals who had to travel to Peshawar/Mardan for their cases , which was something impossible for them because of the cost of travel n stay.
So in my view it is just a Biography of Radio Mullah by one American and another Punjabi(Ahmed Rashid) who have no idea about the sentiments and the local Pashtun culture. In all over Pakistan esp Northern area's of Pakistan(Pashtun belt)the problem is not the fundamentalism, it's how easily they can find justice and where.
This new episode of Talibanization started n 2007 in Swat when two girls were abducted from a house while murdering their father and were forced to marry; while the police even knew who the suspects are but they put a blind eye on the case and never put any action against them (after one week when police did nothing to release those girls, Swat Taliban intervened and not only released them but killed 2-3 personnel who abducted these girls). If this same indecent act happens in USA even the Americans will praise it not because it involved a militant religious group but because they provided justice quick and without hassle. In my view if free and fair justice is provided for common Pakistani's they will never ever turn their heads toward such kind of religious or militants groups.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
WE actually are aware of the history you describe and agree with you on the point of people needing and wanting "quick justice" -- a legal system that is not corrupt and works. In fact, that is what the prince of Swat tells David Montero in our report. Given our time constraints we are not able to report everything in these stories, but we do believe we have opened a window on something most people, especially outside Pakistan, know nothing about.
Lausanne, VD, Switzerland
An excellent effort to bring the truth forward. But the so called world powers are NOT interested in the truth. They collude with dictators to produce wars and ruin country after country to take control !
Asfandiar is not the only one to suffer from the suicide bombing. In the past few days Pakistan has suffered from suicide attacks on many locations. A policeman was killed in a suicide attack and when his funeral procession was carried out, another suicide attack killed 20 people including the cop's brother.
Another suicide attack killed an Army Major few days back and just yesterday a gathering of the elders (Jirga, in NWFP, Swat area) that had decided not to support Taliban was also attacked through suicide bombing.
Thanks to the inability of Musharraf to stop Taliban insurgency on time, the whole nation is suffering.
Great insight, wish you well for future and keep shedding light upon the truth.
Thank you David Montero and PBS for creating a compelling and informative documentary. It is worth mentioning, however, that Mullah Fazlullah is the son-in-law of Sufi Muhammad, the currently imprisoned, leader of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), or Movement for Implementation of Sharia Law. Muhammad founded TNSM along with some other like-minded jihadis in 1992, after breaking with the Jamaat-e-Islaami (JI) on ideological grounds.
In the 1990s he led a campaign to abolish the British-era legal setup in Tribal Areas and implement Sharia-based Qazi courts instead. The government succumbed under duress and in 1999 implemented some reforms in Malakand Agency. The TNSM, however, was not sufficiently appeased, claiming that Qazi courts only paid lip service to Sharia and were therefore unsatisfactory.
In 2001 Sufi Muhammad urged local volunteers to follow him to Afghanistan to aid the Taliban against the US and its allies. They were soundly routed by the Northern Alliance and Muhammad was arrested upon his return to Pakistan. He continues to languish in prison while Fazlullah has taken it upon himself to end the dilatory legal process by setting up a new system consistent with the injunctions of the Quran and Sunnah. However, as you saw in the documentary, it is evident that his agenda is far broader and more sinister than legal reform.
Great work. This Radio Mullah is another one of those mad people who is misguiding people and using Islam for this destructive aims. People there are simple religious people and could easily be brainwashed by these fanatics into their own brand of Islam. Basically I think these are outlaws and because they call themselves Muslims they use Islam to fulfill their aggressive/destructive attitudes.
It makes me cry, and its terrribly hard to see what is going on in this beautiful valley. I grew up in one of these mountains, there was no building for our primary school, so we used to stay at Mosque, we had one teacher who was coming for miles to teach us. This was the same time when the Soviets occuppied Afghanistan, radicalization and Islamicization was underway.
Those were the early days I remember, but our teacher and my father agreed not to follow the recomendations from the central govt. My brothers and I (now 3 of us are physicians and the elder one is engineer) had to come to the Secondary school which was about 4-5 miles walk up and down the hill usually taking 2-3 hours to reach the school. There were compulsory classes for religious education, especialy you had to reach early in the morning to attend it, which was almost not possible for us.
Once it was a chilling winter morning we were terribly cold, even freezing, because there was a heavy snow fall on our house and the tracks were completley blocked.
We could hardly manage to come to school. Upon reaching school, we had to face punishment from the mullah who was teaching the Islamic studies (by the way later I came to know that those mullahs were funded by the American government, because when the aid from USA stopped those mullahs were fired, and that was the happiest day of my life but it was too late).
Anyway to make the long story short, he beat us badly, and I still remember it was so painful and hard, because our hand were frozen. When I saw my brother was crying, I had to stop the damn mullah, with a knife (I was usualy carrying a knife, because back from School we were usually hungry, so we had to eat fruits and vegetables, so a knife was always needed, and on that day it helped a lot). Anyway we were threatened to be kicked out of the School, which they could not do because we had a strong and influential tribe.
Since then I had a hatred towards these damn religions of any kind and fanatics.
When we went to college, we had to stay in the dorm, and during those days these festivals of Building Madrassas were at their peak. The Funds from USA and the Arab Peninsula, particulary Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, were coming. There was no accountability, no checks and no planning, but the only aim was to radicalise the innocent young Pashtuns. Anyway I had to leave the hostel, because I was too much a trouble for my brother, always fighting with the Islamist student organisation.
Finally I had to quit and ended up in Moscow, the only place I could see back then in the mid-nineties against religious fanatacism. But yet an incomplete dream.
I would say that David has shown the real picture of the situation. Is there anyway to download this video?
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We are afraid not.
mardan, nwfp, pakistan
A great documentary. But it misses out one inconvenient fact which would mess up Montero's story of portraying Asfandyar Zeb as a liberal democratic hero.
Asfandyar (may he rest in peace) was a backer of General Musharraf, and was campaigning in the elections from General Musharraf's party (the PML-Q).
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Yes, the prince of Swat was a candidate in the party allied with Musharraf, however he had also become a vocal critic of Musharraf's failings in dealing with the rise of terrorism in Swat.
PAKISTANI MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES ARE STILL SUPPORTING THE WAHABI EXTREMISTS COVERTLY. AS THEY KNOW THAT WITHOUT EXTREMISTS MILITARY'S ROLE IN PAKISTAN WILL BE LIMITED. SO THEY HAVE TO PROVIDE JUSTIFICATION FOR MAINTAINING HUGE ARMY. LIKE THEY DID IN THE LAST TWO DECADES BY SUPPORTING MILITANCY IN AFGHANISTAN AND KASHMIR. PART OF IT IS PURE BUSINESS BUT PART OF PAKISTAN MILITARY SEEMS TO SERIOUSLY BELIEVE IN WAHABI BRAND OF EXTREMIST ISLAM. IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT IN THIS MESS MONARCHS OF SAUDI ARABIA AND UAE HAVE PLAYED CRUCIAL ROLE BY MAINTAINING FLOW OF MONEY TO THE WAHABI SEMINARIES OF PAKISTAN WHICH BREED EXTREMISM. SO WHOEVER IS SUPPORTING MIDDLE EASTERN WAHABI POWERS AND PAKISTANI MILITARY WILL HAVE TO REASSESS THEIR PRIORITIES.
We have identified that Musharaff was an error but who is the alternative? Benazir [Bhutto] is not with us and the others are just puppets.
But over all, excellent coverage. The death of the prince [of Swat] was news even to me, and I am an avid follower of the politics in Pakistan.
21 minutes and 36 seconds to demonstrate 11 years of misguided foreign policy.21minutes and 36 seconds to demonstrate our individual failure to participate in our own democracy -- "to raise public awareness'' Are we listening !
Lake Dallas, Tx
Good story but...
Since when did Frontline become a 19 minute show? Or are we no longer getting full episodes online? I missed the Feb... show. Was it only 20 minutes in duration?
And how about turning the "smaller screen" button into a "Fullscreen" button like the older episodes.
Just what reason would someone want a smaller screen. I've owned a Flash Based internet company for 8 years and have built many custom flash video players but have never had the request for a "Smaller" screen button. I would really like to know the reasoning behind this button and how it would benefit your visitors.
Lake Dallas, Texas
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
You must not watch Frontline very often. In 2002, we started FRONTLINE/World, an international news magazine that airs 4 to 5 times every season as part of the Frontline series. Every episode -- and we've done nearly 30 by now -- consists of 2-3 stories, like "60 Minutes," for example. Pakistan was the lead story of our Feb.... episode, which also included reports from Russia and Cuba. All three stories added up to the normal Frontline hour. Our next FRONTLINE/World episode will be in May.
On the FRONTLINE/World web site we stream the video of all our broadcast sories, plus we produce our own series of online videos we call "Rough Cuts."
Last year, FRONTLINE/World won Emmys both for a broadcast story and an online video, a very unusual achievement.
Years ago we began running our stories online in a small screen format because it played better that way. Now we are able to provide a better online viewing experience on a larger screen. One day we hope to update our older stories to play in the new, improved format.
In general, FRONTLINE/World has provided an opportunity for the venerable Frontline series to take some chances and experiment with new TV and Web formats, as well as providing more international news.
I just couldn't see this program without getting quite emotional. I belong to this trouble spot, Swat, which was once considered as the jewel of the frontier province and famous in Pakistan for its beauty and peace. My heart bleeds seeing all this and knowing what's going on there. The people of Swat are the most peace-loving and very social people in the Frontier province of Pakistan. Because of all the politics, more talk and less action, Swat is now in this situation where it shouldn't be. It was once a model of beauty and peace for the whole Pakistan and now see what we've got.
I often tell my colleagues here in Canada that in the 1960s, the people of Swat were more conservative and less educated but the Wali of Swat (Asfandyar's Grandfather)invited the Irish Catholics and opened an English (Co-education) Convent School in Swat at Sangota. Now because of the lack of action and politics of the Pakistani government, girls were forbidden to go to school. Those FM channels were allowed for propoganda for the last 3 years. We have all these Buddhist relics in Swat from centuries but nobody ever touched them until now.
I just don't know how it is going to stop but I believe that the rulers of Pakistan didn't pay serious attention to this area. Swat wasn't considered an integral part of Pakistan like Islamabad or Rawalpindi. Because if such activities would have been happened in any other part of Pakistan, the authorities would have stopped it right away but here this trouble was cooking-up for the last 14 to 15 years and that's what we are witnessing now.
While an excellent and thought provoking work and one should congratulate the reporter and the project team for undertaking and doing full justice to it I want to clarify two points in it.In the report Benazir's assassination and Amir Zeb's demise have been mentioned in quick succession. That is chronologically correct. However somehow it seems to the observer implying that Benazir Bhutto was also assassinated by the Taliban. Had that been a clear message one would have complained that the project team was taking side of a beleaguered regime on the issue. However that is not clearly the case and let me only limit myself to one clarification. While there is no gainsaying that terrorism and Talbanization pose the single most taxing challenge to the future of the nation, it is a bit premature to conclude that the Taliban were behind Benazir's assassination. There certainly was a serious coverup regarding that as the evidence was immediately hosed down by the authorities. The citizens of this country are demanding that investigations should take place under UN's auspices on the pattern of the Hariri probe. Till then it would be unwise to take any side on the issue.
Second the bold reporter says in his interview that Musharraf is more important asset in the war on terror than any other leader. I am sorry but that is the exact approach that has ensured the west's eight year long blind support for Musharraf's authoritarian regime. If there is only a way to fight the extremists in this country it is only through democracy and good governance. Musharraf is so detested in this country now, as made evident in the national elections that his only an impediment in the war on terror not a solution.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Thank you for your comments. We actually agree with you on your points. We made no connection between the Bhutto assassination and the assassination, the next day, of Asfandiar Amir Zeb, other than to note that Musharraf had blamed Bhutto's murder on Taliban forces (and that there is a general problem of political violence in Pakistan). As you say, and as we said in our report, Bhutto's assassination is still being investigated. It certainly has not been solved.
On your second point, our reporter was merely stating that Musharraf has been an important ally to the U.S. because of Pakistan's strategic importance. We would agree with you that Washington's reliance on Musharraf to the exclusion of democratic forces, including the lawyers movement, is a failure of U.S. policy -- that is the key point our reporter, David Montero, has been trying to make in all his stories and interviews. Ahmed Rashid, the Pakistani analyst interviewed in our program, makes the same point, emphatically.
I caught this and the other Frontline Story on Pakistan this evening. If only the rest of American Media put forth this much effort, we'd all be better off. Thank you and keep up the good, investigative work! Some of us are watching.
I'm an Ohio woman who spent 2 years from 2004-2006 inside Pakistan, including one year inside the SWAT Valley living inside a village with my husband's Pashtoon family. I shopped regularly in Mingora/Saudi Sharif and while watching this fantastic documentary I can say I was AMAZED when seeing the Mosque of Mullah radio. Naturally I had passed it on numerous occasions during my jaunts throughout Swat & the NWFP, but little did I know that when my husband's uncle (and I do mean I was completely innocent of the situation) decided to take myself and the other younger Pashtoon women of the family there one Friday for prayer that this was the place of this extremist [Fazlullah]. I thank God that we were not allowed to enter. They refused to allow women inside the compound. I about fell out of my seat when I visualized this same Mosque in your documentary. Pray for my fantastic family in SWAT. They certainly don't deserve the violence nor the intolerance presented by these religious fanatics, nor do they agree with their ideology. Great work!
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
That's an incredible story. Thank you very much for your letter.
new York, nY
Great work. I would like to ask everyone who knows what is going on in Pakistan under Mushrraf's regime what is so surprising here? It is Musharraf's own cabinet ministers who are responsible for all this militancy while Musharraf is playing blind. Start with the son of Zia ul Haq and the former chief minister of Punjab who are in bed with the Taliban, or so-called Pakistani-Taliban. They are a product of these guys and it is being used to blackmail the United States and Musharaf.
All Musharraf is intrested in is power and praise from the West. It doesn't matter what is going on in the country as long as he and his cronies can get money and power while all the poor people of the country can go to hell.
There needs to be a a proper probe into the assanination of Benazir Bhutto. Follow those tracks and I assure you, you will find out who has bloody hands. This is the sort of justice that will give the people of Pakistan, especialy the poor and modrate people of Pakistan, a renewed hope and trust in the United States.
The program was fantastic.I have never seen anything to match it on any forum.It will live in my memory as I thank my God for my freedom.
David Montero filmed the person even when he had agreed he would not. I would not trust this person.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Actually, you are mistaken. David Montero did not film the Taliban cleric, Maulana Fazlullah. That was done by a local
person who then made it available to FRONTLINE/World.
As our story makes clear, many people in Swat, including many devout Muslims, are deeply opposed to Fazlullah's violence. They are eager to share their concerns with the rest of the world.
As for the other exclusive footage in our story, this was filmed by local Pakistani crews at the invitation of the Taliban, who were only too happy to show off the victims of their violence.
El Cajon, California
This is the reason that I don't need to have cable TV. I am addicted to the information and the quality that your website and station provide. This documentary is just another one of many well made, informative, and eye opening PBS programs. Thank You!
This is yet another example of failed foreign policy by the Bush regime. We as Americans are as much at fault for the Pakistan situation as anyone! How this country voted Bush into office for a 2nd term I'll never understand... Musharraf must be forced to step down through our foreign policy, not propped up as we have done for 8 years. This is a nuclear country and he does not have control of it, even though he is a dictator! I am wondering if he may be behind the car bombings against his opposition.
We are in the throes of World War 3.If the United States don't realize this soon, and they don't seem to have a clue, we are destined for extinction.
I wonder if it will ever stop. The roots start back a few years ago when CIA entrusted Pakistani intelligence with millions of dollars to help Afghans combat the Russians. All we did is strengthen the opium crop industry and strengthen the Taliban, who in turn supported the terrorists. Shall we ever learn? And where are we now? Iraq, where we should have never gone. God help us.
One of the most thought-provoking reports FRONTLINE has aired; Asfandiar Zeb was an impressive Swat patriot & his stand against the crazed radio cleric, Fazlullah, should rally those who still want to preserve Swat's true culture. PLEASE cover the efforts of Zeb's brother and family to fight against the Taliban cowards who killed him, because what they want is for the Swat resistance to lose heart. Let's hope the threatened villagers can band against these Taliban madmen -who pervert Muslim teachings for their own sick agenda. If those 60 villages & towns stand as one, they just may have a chance...
Brilliant piece of Journalism. Puts to shame other so called news network's coverage of the world. Kudos to David Montero.
The situation in SWAT is alarming and scary. Despots like Fazlullah must be stopped. My deepest sympathies to the family of Asfandiar Amir Zeb. He was truly a brave man to stand up to Fazlullah.
The most interesting series on PBS is Frontline. Keep up the quality work.
So who built that $2.5 million madrassa? My guess, it's the same folks it has always been: http://www.asecondlookatthesaudis.com
You guys have done some great work on exposing what the Saudis have been up to, but there are still a lot of dots to be connected. These guys are truly relentless.
Los Angeles, CA
Simply brilliant work! Great insight and precise.
This report has opened my eyes. I knew there was militancy in Swat but did not know the extent of it. I do not know what has happened to Pakistan in the last two to three years. Such extremism and terrorrism was unheard of before. I moved to the USA two years back and now can't recognize the country I left behind. My heart bleeds for my homeland. I remember going to Swat every year for summer vacations when I was a child. It was perhaps the most peaceful and beautiful part of Pakistan. I can't help but blame Musharraf and those in power for neglecting the rise of terrorism in this region especially when they were supposed to be fighting global terrorism. I feel sad, very very sad.
This situation in Pakistan is a very scary. Are we going to find ourselves involved in Pakistan? If the extremists find themselves in power in Pakistan with nuclear weapons we are going to be in trouble. American Beware we must be ready!
What is happening in Pakistan now is a great tragedy. Every moderate Pakistani has a responsibility to make sure that the country does not become another Iraq. United States should start working with the elected representatives and not support Musharraf.
Spent several months on a research project on NWFP -- one thing not mentioned is the connection in the change in tactics in relation to suicide bombing in particular to other areas in Pakistan and what's also seen across the border in Afghanistan. Also, it's not just the radio Mullah but so many pirate radio stations in the region (including FATA) that are also the issue... the only thing your wonderful piece of reporting did not mention enough..