The Swat Valley, which was once known as the garden of Ashoka due to its scenic beauty, has turned into a land of memories. Several memorial sites can be seen in the valley, while all the roads, city squares and residential colonies have been named after soldiers who lost their lives fighting against militants.
The valley, well-known for peace and history, hosts over 100 archaeological sites and was once visited by thousands of local and foreign tourists. However, since the militants entered the valley, it has been abandoned by tourists and archaeologists.
One can see banners displaying details of armed clashes between the Taliban and the security forces at several places in the valley, and the names of the most wanted terrorists are also displayed in public places.
“The military operation and the devastating floods last year ruined the entire valley and subsequently kept visitors away,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, a frequent visitor to Swat.
Historic landmarks such as Churchill Post and Buddha’s statue are in dilapidated condition, as the military operation has caused severe damage to the precious heritage of the valley. Also, the presence of security forces has restricted free movement of local people, which also serves as a discouraging factor for tourists.
The residents of Swat are living under constant scrutiny of the security forces, living lives devoid of entertainment. “We are being always suspected and now we have started to see others with suspicion as well. Visitors from other places and even my family members seem to haunt me now,” said Imanullah, a resident of Bahrain Valley in Swat.
Apart from the military operation, the devastating floods which swept the valley last year also destroyed its natural beauty, besides damaging infrastructure in the region. In addition to that, the
slow response by the government to address the needs of local people is another major factor behind peoples’ miseries.
“There are many people who want to cultivate their lands, but they do not have the required funds,” said a resident of Qambar town, Zamin Akbar, adding that the ignorance of the government and lack of tourism was making it difficult for people to survive.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2011.
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Swat needs peace, nothing else from Government and Militants. For God sake...Stop to play your game on this land of beauty and let them to live them with peace and prosperity