Swat: The valley of the Wali

Published: April 28, 2013

Aurangzeb Adnan, grandson of the last Wali-e-Swat, talks about how radicalisation and societal change spelled the political demise of his family.

He sounds bitter. He sounds deeply hurt. One can feel his pain when he speaks about Swat, the idyllic, serene and once peaceful princely state that his ancestors ceded to Pakistan in 1969.

Miangul Adnan Aurangzeb, a grandson of the last Wali of Swat, Miangul Jahannzeb, witnessed the metamorphosis of society – from a modern, liberal state to a ‘haven for extremists’. This not only radically changed the social fabric but also the political landscape of Swat, virtually putting an end to a ‘royal political dynasty’ that dominated the region’s politics until 2002.

“This radicalisation [of society] did not happen overnight,” said 53-year-old Adnan, who is a computer engineering graduate from Northeastern University, Boston. He believes the government turned a blind eye to what was happening in Swat since 2002. “This shows either the government was culpable or too incompetent to see it coming,” he said.

Adnan’s young cousin, Asfandyar Amirzeb, was the district nazim of Swat in 2005 when Mullah Fazlullah was ruling the airwaves, radicalising minds and enlisting new recruits through his FM radio for the bloody campaign he was to launch in days to come. Asfandyar warned the government about the ominous developments. “He was told, ‘it’s not your business’,” Adnan recalled his cousin telling him during a 2005 meeting.

In 2009, the government ordered a massive military operation to wrest back the region from Mullah Fazlullah after a peace deal between the two sides broke down. They restored peace after a year of deadly battles.

But Adnan believes it’s far from over. “They have treated the symptoms – not the disease,” he said. “Today’s Swat is on life support. You pull out the army, and it will slide into chaos immediately,” he added. “This is because there was ‘no post-operation operation’ to build on the military gains.”

Is there a remedy? “Yes, Swat needs a complete overhaul,” Adnan said. “It needs economic, social, administrative and judicial reforms for lasting peace.”

Asfandyar was killed in a Taliban bomb attack a day after the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in 2007. A year and a half later, most family members moved to Islamabad.

Asked why his family left Swat at a time when their people needed them most, Adnan said, “Swat had become unlivable and we didn’t see any role for ourselves. I stood in election in 2002 and 2008 – but lost.” Still he romanticises the region. “Swat lives within me. You can take me out of Swat, but you cannot take Swat out of me,” he said.

In 2002 Adnan ran for NA-29 (Swat-I) but was defeated by MMA candidate Qari Abdul Baees Siddiqi by a big margin. The MMA swept the Swat elections, winning both NA seats and the seven PA seats. Some believe MMA’s stunning victory was engineered by the establishment, but Adnan candidly concedes his defeat. “Nobody could withstand the ‘tsunami’ of MMA which swept away many powerful and popular politicians of not just Swat but the entire province,” he said.

However, he did say the MMA violated all rules of election and all ethics of politics. “The MMA used religion for political purposes, they sold their election symbol as the Holy Book to the voters.”

In 2008, Adnan was defeated by ANP candidate Muzafarul Mulk. “I was up against eight candidates of ANP. I could not campaign in 75% of my constituency [for security reasons],” he said. The ANP won one of the two NA seats and all seven PA seats in the district.

The royal family had been part of each Parliament until 2002. The last Wali of Swat, Miangul Jahanzeb, was named to the constituent assembly of West Pakistan in 1955. He resigned in 1958 to make way for then crown prince, Miangul Aurangzeb, who remained an assembly member until 1968.

When parliamentary politics began, Miangul Aurangzeb was elected to the NA four times. He was also a member of Gen Ziaul Haq’s Majlis-e-Shura in 1981. In 1997, after his election to the National Assembly, he was named governor of Balochistan by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He vacated the seat which was won by his son, Miangul Adnan Aurangzeb in by-elections.

Since 2002, no one from the family could make it to Parliament or even to the provincial assembly. Adnan is not contesting the 2013 elections and only one member of the royal family, Shaheryar Amirzeb, a cousin of Adnan, will run for a provincial assembly seat.

Does this mean the family’s influence has waned over the years? “No,” said Adnan. “We still command respect in the region. People of Swat still romanticise the rule of the Wali. However, he concedes that the respect was no longer materialising in votes because society has polarised on the basis of political, tribal and religious affiliations.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2013.

Reader Comments (2)

  • Yousafzai
    Apr 28, 2013 - 12:09PM

    Question, could princely states ever make a return to Pakistan?

    Recommend

  • Apr 29, 2013 - 1:38AM

    Pakistan doesn’t need these royal families to lead us. We want common people to lead Pakistan.

    Recommend

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