History of Swat
and SRI

Early History

Swat is a breathtakingly beautiful valley nestled in the foothills of the world’s highest mountains, the Karakoram range in the Western Himalayas of Pakistan. History has played out a fascinating story in this valley. Alexander the Great came through the region in 326 BCE, followed by a flourishing of the Gandhara culture, from where Buddhism spread into China and South East Asia via the Silk Road.

Swat is home to stunning landscapes, snow-capped mountains, gushing streams, fruit-laden orchards and its hospitable, peace-loving people.  In a 1961 hunting trip to the region, Queen Elizabeth called Swat “the Switzerland of the East”.

Swat State

Miangul Abdul Wadood

The modern State of Swat was established in 1917 by Miangul Abdul Wadood and, in 1926, was formally recognized as a Princely State by The British, with Wadood as its first Wali, or Ruler.  The Wali’s extraordinary achievement was to unite warring tribes and transform Swat into an efficient State, with all the machinery of modern government like schools, hospitals, roads and a fair justice system.  The establishment of the first girls school in 1922 started a rapid development of social infrastructure, roads, medical clinics and educational facilities.

In 1947, when Pakistan got its independence from Britain, the Wali pledged the full support of his State and, among other things, gifted to Pakistan its first Hawker Fury fighter aircraft.

Miangul Abdul Wadood
In 1949, the Wali handed over the reins of office to his son, Miangul Jehanzeb, the last Wali, who further accelerated all the social and infrastructure growth programs begun by his father, making the State a model of development for South-East Asia.

Merger with Pakistan

In 1969, the State was merged into Pakistan and was taken over by the country’s bureaucracy.  At the time of the merger, Swat had the highest literacy rate of any rural area in Pakistan and had the highest number of doctors and teachers.  Unfortunately, the merger began a slow decline in all aspects of government and society.  Corruption in all departments of the administration eventually penetrated even the much admired legal system - cases, which never lasted more than two weeks, now ran on for years, with no resolution in sight.

2008   Taliban

In 2008, the Taliban, in a surprise move, took over the State, appealing to the people’s sense of despair with a message promising to take Swat back to the “golden era” of the Wali.  Instead, their takeover resulted in gruesome beheadings, public beatings of men and women, dismembered bodies in town squares, closure and destruction of girls schools,  shutdown of a burgeoning entertainment industry and other extremist measures which terrorized the population.

2009   The Army Moves in

In 2009, Pakistan removed the Taliban from power in a military action that resulted in the destruction of a large part of Swat’s legendary infrastructure and an exodus of over two million refugees.

SRI is Formed

It was in this milieu that the Swat Relief Initiative (SRI) was started by Zebu and Arshad Jilani. Zebu is the granddaughter of the last Wali of Swat.  SRI provided immediate aid to refugee camps with mobile clinics and other necessities.  SRI’s immediate goal was to address the survival of the refugees while preserving their dignity.

After the removal of the Taliban from power, SRI moved back with the  refugees and established an Integrative Rural Development Program, in partnership with  Human Development Foundation (HDF), which has broad experience in this field.  The program covers eight targeted Villages near the capital, Saidu Sharif.

2010  Floods and 2015 Earthquake

In 2010, major flooding caused massive destruction of Swat’s remaining infrastructure and SRI responded with Flood Relief and medical support to avoid starvation and the spread of water-borne diseases.

In 2015, a major earthquake caused destruction in several of our target villages. We are providing relief, reconstruction and medical support to these villages.


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