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Zebu Jilani interview with Elan magazine   March 5, 2014

Zebu Jilani was interviewed by Moniza Khokhar (founder of Elan magazine) on January 17, 2014. The interview appeared in the March issue of the magazine.
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SRI and Malala in The Rotarian magazine      Mar 1, 2014

Zebu Jilani, President of SRI, started the Rotary Club, Mingora, Swat, Pakistan. This article about the Club's activity and its connection to Malala, appeared in the January, 2014, issue of the Rotarian magazine.
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Dr Ambreen Haq, Medical Volunteer   December 5, 2013

Dr. Ambreen Naveed Haq has recently become an instrumental volunteer for SRI. She currently works as a gynecologist at the Pakistan Atomic Energy General Hospital in Islamabad. For the past six months, she has also been using her expertise to help SRI improve the local hospital in Saidu Sharif, Swat. She has completed a critical assessment and has determined what the hospital needs in order to function at its maximum potential. She has been training the hospital staff in how to properly use equipment donated by SRI, and holds workshops on how to give compassionate care.

In addition to her work in the hospital, Dr. Ambreen holds health camps for SRI’s target villages, and trains SRI staff to reduce maternal mortality. Some of the topics she has covered include the importance of breastfeeding, prenatal care, and postnatal care.

Some of Dr. Ambreen’s work with SRI:

Thank you! February 20, 2012

We recently sent out the following message thanking our donors. If you have not yet contributed, or if you wish to continue your commitment to the people of Swat, please consider making a donation.

Dear Friends,

Before I give you the update on SRI, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our supporters and volunteers for their tremendous effort in helping us improve the lives of women and children in Swat. All this could not be possible without your contributions and volunteerism.

Our Preventive Health Program for 8 villages has improved tremendously in the past year, thanks to the effort and dedication of the HDF team and our staff in Swat. Following is a list of achieved targets for the 4th quarter in 2011.

Planned activities in 4th Quarter 2011 Target achieved
  • Monthly Household visits by Lady Health Workers 100%
  • Antenatal checkups 100%
  • Postnatal checkups 100%
  • Growth monitoring of children under five years of age 100%
  • Fully Immunized Children for EPI vaccinations 74%

  • Mother Child Health Awareness Workshops 100%

  • Fully Immunized Women of Reproductive Age for TT Vaccinations 72%

  • Deliveries handled by Skilled Birth Attendants 84%

  • Health Seminars 100%

  • Monitoring Visits of Field Unit Incharge 100%

  • Monitoring Visits of Lady Health Visitors 100%
Last year we were able to increase the salaries of our Lady Health Workers and Lady Health Visitors because of a generous grant from Abbott Labs. A special thanks to the dedicated people in Abbott Fund who made it all possible.

Our team completed an extensive Baseline Survey, which will be helpful in assessing our progress towards lowering infant mortality and improving the health of mothers and children in the area.

Swat Relief Initiative and HDF have now started a pilot program to mobilize and organize communities in the villages of Sarkari Cham, Katair, and Kashar Khail. Committees in these grassroots organization will bring improvement is four sectors in the villages: education, health, economic development, and the environment.

In education we will revive parent teacher associations, have quality teacher training programs and a citizenship curriculum so that students who graduate will give back to their communities. We will also have a scholarship program to make children more competitive in education.

In the health sector, we have started a Preventive Healthcare Program in these villages, which will reduce infant mortality and improve maternal health. Most children and mothers do not get regular care in these poorer communities, and many deaths were occurring due to micronutrient deficiencies, lack of immunization, and lack of proper child and maternal healthcare.

Economic Development
In the economic development sector, we have started a skills development center for widows who are destitute and have no means of supporting their children. This center will develop skills in embroidery and tailoring so these women can earn a living, in order to put food on the table for their children and will also give the children an opportunity to go to school.

For sustainable environment solutions we are encouraging tree planting and ways to preserve existing trees. Solutions will be found, with the help of village organization committees, to dispose of solid waste and have clean drinking water.

Another program we started was a commitment to build schools in 5 remote villages where the Gojar community lives. These people live at an elevation of about 11,000 ft and have no schools or roads. We had to get a bulldozer to make a road with the help of the community to get there. The Gojars are the poorest and most underprivileged community in Swat and have only lived as slaves and menial labors in the society. When we went to help this downtrodden community, their only wish was for us to build schools for their children so they could get out of the rut of being slave laborers and have a chance for a better life. Because of the remoteness of these areas, no governmental or non-governmental organizations work here, so we are their only hope.

I would like to remind you that in order to continue our effort, we are in constant need of funds. Your support is always appreciated and donations can be made conveniently by clicking here.

Best regards,

Return to PostsZebu

Integrative Rural Development Program started      September 15, 2011

In July we announced our Integrative Rural Development Program (IRDP). We have identified Sarkari Cham village as the site of our pilot project, which is now underway! With the help of local activists, we have initiated a social development organization in the village which is now ready to elect officers and form committees to improve the economy, education, healthcare, and the environment. We are working with government entities to build a middle school for girls, who are currently unable to study beyond class 5. We are also planting trees to help combat deforestation, and were are looking for a rental property to use as a women’s center.
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Publication by The News September 15, 2011

Friends, we thought you might be interested in this recent article about Swat Relief Initiative:
The News: US-based granddaughter serving Swatis by Farzana Ali Khan, Aug 22, 2011

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New SRI Video     August 21, 2011

We are proud to bring you our new informational video, which adds a summary of the work we did in 2010. In keeping with our promise, we did not use any donated money on the production of this film; it was funded entirely by SRI’s founding members.
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Medical camps, Hospital staff, Social mobilization training, and Rotary Club July 8, 2011

Dear Friends,

Swat Relief Initiative has expanded its reach, going into even more remote areas than before. We have brought our health and nutrition seminar and medical camps to the villages of Shingartan (near Gat Piochar) and other rural villages in Swat that were Taliban strongholds during the 2009 takeover. The people in these regions are still terrorized by the brutality of the Taliban, who used to publicly execute and mutilate the bodies of anyone who opposed them. Women are especially afraid to come out of their homes, and so it is crucial that we provide much needed healthcare and give them the opportunity to take charge of their families’ health. We have also made plans to create a maternity clinic near Shingartan, which is a 2 hour bus ride from the nearest hospital, resulting in the death of many women due to lack of proper prenatal and post natal care. In addition to our health camps, we (in partnership with HDF) continue to provide preventive healthcare to eight villages.

For a year now, we have maintained two janitors and two doctors in the maternity ward of the local government hospital in Saidu Sharif. This staff, hired by SRI, work full-time to improve the sanitation, environment, and health services available to Swati women. This week, we provided an orientation session for the hospital’s doctors and nurses in the use of a CTG monitor that we purchased for them. This device non-invasively monitors fetal heart rate and uterine contractions, which provides invaluable information to doctors as they decide how to proceed with patients in labor or late pregnancy. In the coming weeks, we will be giving instructions in the use of four other pieces of equipment that we have bought for the hospital. We have also purchased multimedia equipment that will be used in the hospital to play an adapted version of our Health and Nutrition Seminar to patients and staff.

Two weeks ago, HDF sent their foremost instructor on social mobilization to train our staff in Saidu Sharif. The entire staff participated in an intensive four-day course, which taught us how to create social organizations in order to bring development through involvement of the local population. The course included practical field work and subsequent reflection sessions. The consensus from the staff was that the training was extremely edifying, and that it would be instrumental in the implementation of our planned Integrative Rural Development Program (IRDP). A key feature of the IRDP is that it will take into account the needs of each specific community. SRI and HDF believe that, more than anyone else, the local beneficiaries are aware of the kind of development they need, and also are the most motivated to bring about change. The mechanism whereby local voices will be heard is by forming partnerships with local people. The SRI/HDF program will identify activists within the community, and teach the activists how to form committees and raise awareness and funds for small-scale development projects.

The Rotary Club of Swat, initiated by the President of SRI almost a year ago, has been producing incredible results. The club has organized local activists to raise funds for various development projects, and they have also formed committees to tackle several key issues in Swat. The Education Committee’s task is to raise the standard of local schools, which have fallen far from their former quality. Another committee has been formed to monitor and generate ideas for improving hospitals, and yet another called Green Swat will work to improve the environment and prevent deforestation. On the 15th of June, SRI’s president initiated the Rotrat club of Swat, which is a junior version of Rotary Club. The members are mostly from Swat University, but more diverse members are expected to join as the club gains prominence.

I would like to thank all our donors and supporters who have helped us achieve our goals.

Best Regards,

Zebu Jilani

President, Swat Relief Initiative

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Two news items about SRI  Nov 4, 2010

Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, recently published this interview with Zebu Jilani

Graeme Smith recently published an article about our work in The Globe and Mail. Please find the article here: A princess returns to the Swat Valley.
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SRI Founders attend US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue      Aug 12, 2010

On October 21, Zebu and Arshad Jilani and cofounder Arshad Jilani attended the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue roundtable conference. The conference was also attended by Eric P. Schwartz (the US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration), Shahnaz Wazir Ali (Special Advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister), General Nadeem Ahmed (Chairman, National Disaster Management Authority of Pakistan), and Ronan Farrow (Special Advisor on Humanitarian and NGO Affairs for the US State Department).

The Jilani’s describe the conference as “very fruitful”, having made strong ties with these influential people.

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Current priority: Preventing waterborne disease during ongoing floods   Aug 5, 2010

The Monsoon rains of South Asia struck a devastating blow to the region. The Swat Valley, which is in the foothills of the Himalayas, normally sits on the fringe of these annual rains, but this time the rains came with an intensity not seen in four generations. Old records of British India show a similar situation occurring in the early 1920s. The Swat river, the lifeline of the valley, normally a picturesque mountain stream, crested far above previously known flood stages, causing a massive torrent to surge downstream, destroying homes, roads, bridges, farmland and livestock in its wake. Hundreds of deaths have been reported and the tally keeps rising. This has created desperate conditions for towns and villages in the area. There is a major shortage of food and waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery have begun to spread. Power has been out for the last 10 days. The only way we have been able to communicate is by recharging our computers and cell phones at a home nearby which has a small generator. Unfortunately, even more rain is in the forecast and there is no estimate as to when the electricity, gas, tap water and phone lines will be available again.

Despite this castastrophic situation, I am extremely busy holding medical camps and health seminars two, sometimes three times a day in the flood-affected areas of Swat. We are getting a little help from a couple of NGOs, like CCP to supply rations to the affected people, but the majority of the effort is made by our own SRI Preventive Healthcare Program. My fear is that a lot of people will die of the waterborne diseases, and that is why I am holding health seminars so frequently in order to educate the population in disease prevention and also to treat them for dysentery and diarrhea.

Here are a couple of media references to the situation, although a simple search for Swat Valley Flood will get you updated news.

Here is an article from Fox: Pakistan’s Swat Valley survives Taliban insurgency only to face destruction from floods

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In the Media Jul 23, 2010

Akbar S. Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, has recently published an article about us in the in The World Post (Huffington Post), titled Compassion in Tabliban territory.
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Healthcare Update     Jul 15, 2010

Dear Friends,

Since I have come to Swat, I have noticed that most NGOs run programs for a maximum of 3 – 6 months and pay huge salaries that take away workers from organizations like ours that are here on a long term basis. The programs are rarely based on the needs of the people and consist of handouts that create more problems in the long term. For instance, the World Food Program has a project here that gives rations as an incentive to children to go to schools. This has put a great burden on the badly run and understaffed public education system, and with so many students coming to classes to collect rations, each teacher now has to teach between 100 and 200 students.

I have been traveling to different villages almost every day and have found that there is a health crisis among the Swati people. Most people are ill, and the two main hospitals in Swat are overburdened, understaffed and badly run (please click on the pictures below for more detail). There is a great need for preventive healthcare programs (like the one that Swat Relief Initiative has started here in collaboration with HDF) in order to take the burden off the hospitals. Our preventive healthcare program has a three-pronged approach to prevent disease: improve maternal health, reduce infant mortality, and reduce malnutrition. We educate people in nutrition by holding health seminars that introduce the right diet and supplements to prevent malnution. We teach hygiene and environmental cleanliness to combat the spread of disease. We also provide antenatal and postnatal care to women, and monitor children under 5. This monitoring includes vaccinations for mothers and children. Additionally, we teach people how to prevent AIDS, HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other major diseases.

I am very actively involved in getting this program off the ground and am personally holding health seminars in villages to create awareness of our program. At the same time, I am also trying to improve the conditions in the local hospitals so that people here can have access to quality healthcare.


Zebu Jilani

President, Swat Relief Initiative

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Update from Swat    Jun 26, 2010

Dear Friends and supporters.

I want to give you an update on our activities to date. I have been working nonstop to get our Preventive healthcare project, in collaboration with HDF, off the ground. When I first arrived in Islamabad in May, I had a private meeting with the US Ambassador Ann Patterson, Deputy of Mission Gerald Feiersteine and refugee coordinator Liane Dorsey in the US embassy. We had a detailed talk with the Ambassador and presented her with our current project as well as our future proposal to make Swat into a model district.

The HDF team and Swat Relief Initiative have been working diligently, hiring and training the staff for our preventive healthcare program in Swat. The building for our Community Health Center is ready for use, and, day after tomorrow, our training session will be completed and our team will be ready to go into the field to teach women about preventive healthcare, hygiene and nutrition. We will also be monitoring pregnant and lactating women and children under 5 in order to prevent malnutrition and reduce female and infant mortality and improve maternal health. Our HDF team has been extremely efficient and professional in conducting the training sessions for our staff and I say this with confidence as I have personally attended all the training sessions with our staff members.

I also wanted to inform every one of a grave situation I witnessed. Since I have come to Swat many people have been telling me to visit the maternity ward in the Saidu Hospital because the practices there are atrocious. I visited the maternity ward a few days ago and the condition there was beyond belief. I did not sleep for several nights, haunted by the sights I witnessed during my surprise visit there. The stench was stifling, the birthing beds were all torn with deep craters and were never cleaned of blood between patients, the vacuum cup and surgical instruments used on each patient were not even washed, leave alone sterilized between each patient, contraction inducing drugs and episiotomies were given prematurely resulting in ruptured uteruses and unnecessary bleeding. In the 5 hours that I was there not a single doctor could be seen and on top it all the nurses and staff were extremely rude to the patients, slapping them and yelling at them frequently. I am appealing to everyone to join hands to remedy this situation. I am really disturbed by what I saw. I have, personally, taken it upon myself to fix this situation before I leave Swat. If any one else wants to help please let me know.

Best regards

Zebu Jilani, President, Swat Relief Initiative


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Fundraiser was a success   May 18, 2010

On May 2, Swat Relief Initiative had a very successful fundraiser in Pennington, NJ. About 80 people attended, and over $10,000 were contributed in total. We thank our attendees and committee members for making this event possible. We will make a video of the event available on our website as soon as possible.
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State of the Valley   Apr 15, 2010

Last month, Michael Gregory, in his article for Reuters, provided an excellent summary on the conditions in Swat. This article highlights why it is so important to continue our work even though the refugee crisis is over. Excerpts from the article follow:

“Nearly a year after a Pakistani army offensive cleared the Taliban from Swat, government efforts to stabilize the region through economic rehabilitation have yielded limited results.”

“Massive state funding is needed … Only that, officials say, will prevent the Taliban from returning to recruit residents disillusioned with a government widely perceived as corrupt and inefficient.”

“Swat’s most advanced medical facility, Saidu Sharif Teaching Hospital, lacks basic equipment. Cardiac arrest victims rushed to the emergency room have no access to defibrillators. A young boy with a fractured skull lay disoriented in a bed waiting for results from a battered X-ray machine. A bloody bandage lay on the floor. Flies hovered nearby.”

You can find the full article on the Reuters website.

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Partnership with HDF   Apr 15, 2010

Just today, we officially partnered with the Human Development Foundation, a Pakistani NGO, to help us run our healthcare program for women and children in Swat. We have been pursuing this relationship for quite some time, and we are very excited to begin working with such a reputable and accomplished NGO.
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Fundraiser at Twelve Gates Gallery   Apr 15, 2010

Ayesha Zia, the owner of the Twelve Gates Gallery in Philadelphia, had a ten-day event in which she sold postcards from times of war. All proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Swat Relief Initiative. We thank Ms. Zia for her generous contribution and effort on behalf of the people of Swat.
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Meeting with Greg Mortenson   Apr 3, 2010

Greg Mortenson’s organization CAI has helped Swat Relief Initiative raise almost $10,000 through the Reach Foundation over the past several months. Yesterday, Swat Relief Initiative’s president and board members attended, at Greg Mortenson’s invitation, a round-table conference on education with distinguished speakers such as Owen Bennett-Jones of BBC World and author of Pakistan: Eye of the Storm, Mir Ibrahim Rahman, CEO of GEO TV Network, Saeed A. Khan, founder of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, and of course Greg Mortenson himself.

Efforts to promote education in Pakistan (particularly for women) were discussed in this forum. SRI President Zebu Jilani and other board members met privately with Greg Mortenson to discuss education and healthcare in Swat.

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US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue with Hillary Clinton   Mar 25, 2010

Yesterday, the President and board members of the Swat Relief Initiative attended the reception for the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. The US was represented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Special Representative for Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, and the Pakistan team was led by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

SRI President Zebu Jilani met with Secretary Clinton and presented her with our “Plans and Projects” brochure. The Secretary was very interested in Swat insisted that Mr. Holbrooke contact us. We are already in touch with the people in Mr. Holbrooke’s office, and we are looking forward to a high-level meeting in the state department.

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Mobile units to become permanent clinic   Jul 15, 2009

As you all must have heard, the refugees have begun to be sent home, by mandate of the Pakistan government. In light of this fact, we have decided to convert our Mobile Health Units into a permanent facility located in Swat. In addition to employing Swatis and providing free medical care, the clinic will also serve as a forum for empowering women to take control of their own lives.

You can read this article in the Washington Post if you want to know more about the forced return
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In the Media   Jul 3, 2009

There have been a few mentions of our work in the media lately.

Nasir Khan wrote an article about us in a UAE newspaper called The National.

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Another Update from Pakistan   Jun 19, 2009

Dear friends,

Sorry I have not been in touch for a while, but I have just returned from a trip to the refugee camps and did not have access to the internet there. I just wanted to let you know that thanks to all your effort and generous donations we have formed our mobile health unit comprised of one male doctor, two female doctors, two nurses, two nurse practitioner, and two medicine dispensers. My sister Zeenat, her daughter Nafees and I were the organizers and educators in basic hygiene. Due to the generous donations of medicines and supplies, we have been able to give free medical care and medicines to over 1500 patients in more than eight camps so far. Most of these camps have refugee populations that have nurses and teachers that do not have jobs, so we gave one professional in each camp training in basic hygiene and disease prevention and made them in charge of hygiene and cleanliness. After a one day break I will be going back to the camps tomorrow. I have uploaded a few photos of the camps and will keep updating you.

Best regards,


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Update from Pakistan   May 31, 2009

Dear friends,

We arrived in Pakistan a couple of days ago and want to inform you of our progress. We have contacted ambassadors, non-profit organizations dealing with the displaced people, and visited refugee camps.

We presented our proposal to Jerald Feirerstein, the DCM, at the American Embassy and his team. Liane Dorsey, Coordinator for Refugees, and Mr. Dwyers, of the USAID/OFDA and Jason Jefferys, the Political Officer,who were all enthusiastic to hear about the work we intend to carry out. Our main proposal of providing health-teams for the refugees from the local population was welcomed. We will also be providing names and list of professionals among the refugee population to Mr Dwyers of the USAID so he can circulate it to different NGO’s and encourage them to higher professions from the refugee population to provide services to other refugees living in camps. Our Family members have been giving immediate aid packages to newly displaced people. We will have a sustained campaign that will allow Swatis to get maximum services from their own people in this difficult environment while allowing them to maintain their dignity.

We have also met with the DCMs of Canada, UK, France and the Afghan acting Ambassador who were eager to do their part. The Afghan Ambassador relayed that this situation was familiar to him over the last decade in his own country. He was especially sympathetic as he is an ethnic Pashtun.

We have also met with non-profit organizations like the Human Development Foundation. We hope to coordinate our visits to the camps in Mardan with them. They will give us logistic support because they are familiar with the camps and the refugees who are living in various camps and schools. Mr. Eric Barese of Red Cross USA has put us in touch with their affiliate who is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Red Crescent Society.

Yesterday we visited a camp of internally displaced Swatis now settled in the Adiyala area of Rawalpindi. There were 20 houses that had been hired by semi-professionals with 50 to 100 people per house. The majority in a household were children who were visiting the local madrassas in place of their regular schools. The Professionals complained that as they were not housed in tents they were not recognized and received the minimal of help. For these professionals standing in long lines for rations was humiliating and even then there was no guarantee that after hours of waiting that they would receive anything. The local population, however, have been most welcoming and cooperative in the short-term.

These internally displaced people feel very dejected and there is a cloud of gloom and doom hanging over the entire population. Since we arrived here, there have been four bomb blasts in two major cities (Lahore and Peshawar). We are working under these difficult circumstances and are also aware that things in Pakistan move slowly, but we feel we are making good headway. The internally displaced people are hoping that the problem will be resolved soon and that they will be able to return, otherwise they would not be able to afford rents or to sustain their families and the good will of the local population will dissipate.

We will continue to keep you posted about the situation here.

Best regards,

Return to PostsZebu

Our Swat – Gone With The Wind   May 22, 2009

by Zebunisa Jilani and Zeenat Ahmed (submitted for reading at an APPNA conference on Swat, Spring 2009)

Swat is in the news daily for its lawlessness, violence, killings, destruction and refugees. But while growing up in this beautiful princely State in the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, we remember it for its peace and tranquility and the people for its compassion and benevolence. Swat was a land rich in culture and history – Alexander and Buddha and more recently the Yusufzai – and its wealth and beauty is legendary – emerald mines and emerald-green river, lush orchards, and snow-capped mountains. In 1961 the Queen of England, as a guest of the Wali, had loved Swat and called it “The Switzerland of the East”.

In the evening our daily routine would come to a halt and we would punctually join our grandfather, Jahanzeb, the Wali Swat, on his daily drive through the orderly state of Swat. “This is duty”, our grandfather never failed to mention. He and the “ardalies” – smart, impeccably dressed, young bodyguard each representing an important family in Swat – were there to impose order and inspect what was his pride: schools, clinics, police-stations (qalas) and administration-units every couple of miles, connected by an impeccable web of blacktop roads throughout the State.

The Wali’s morning duties too were grueling. As a hands-on ruler the Wali headed each department of his administration. His role was that of king and religious leader, chief minister and commander-in-chief, chief exchequer and head qazi. He ensured that his government provided: 1) good administration and productive revenue collection; 2) a judicial system that provided quick and free justice to all. 3) A qala system that provided security and protection to the people; 4) Grassroots developments, centered on jobs, welfare, education and health services to all; Finally 5) instant communication through roads, bridges, and telegraph and telephones and informers that kept the Wali informed of the latest developments. This was a unique system of administration. The Wali’s successful and effective rules and penal codes provided complete rule of law.

The Wali’s administration reflected the best of Pukhtun culture, Islam and modernity. His government was a combination of progressive laws and the regional “Codes of Conduct” set by the jirgas of the region. The balance between traditional culture, religion and modernity ensured a progressive, efficient and enlightened system.

The Wali was the supreme leader of Swat. Like his administration he had the best qualities of a tribal, Islamic and modern leader. He was compassionate and benevolent like his holy ancestor (The Akhund of Swat); politically able and skillful like the Founder of the State; and disciplined and contemporary like the British political officers he interacted with. He based his conduct and morals on his strong faith and the example of past successful Islamic rulers. He never missed a prayer and his fast began one day before everyone else. It was these principles that allowed the Wali, his father Bacha Sahib, and his revered great-grandfather, Saidu Baba, to provide peace, civility, and tranquility to the State for more than a hundred years, transforming a raw tribal structure into an organized, firm and efficient modern government.

In 1947 the rulers of the State chose to give their full support to Mr. Jinnah and the creation of Pakistan. Swat opted to join Pakistan in 1954 and in 1969 the State was formally taken over by Pakistan and was split into the districts of Swat, Shangla and Buner – 60 miles from Islamabad as the crow flies. The new Pakistani bureaucracy, that took over from the Wali, was slow in providing administration, justice and security but was successful in providing checks and balances between the police, politicians and local leaders until President Musharraf dismantled the civil service structure and replaced it with the local bodies or Nazim system. The Nazims were locals, who enhanced their own interests and provided little or no administration or security. This vacuum together with the events of 9/11 would propel the Swati Taliban to prominence.

The new zealot group of madrassah-educated youth had begun to assert themselves as early as the 1990. They had existed in society before then but they had been a docile and insignificant group. Now they formed strong links to their allies, the Taliban of Afghanistan, and had access to their wealth and militant expertise. Sufi Muhammad who headed them took a large contingent of Swatis to fight the US in Afghanistan in 2001. In Swat they began to gain support as they provided justice as vigilantes.

They constructed a major mosque worth millions of dollars with underground bunkers and Fazlullah, the successor and son-in-law of Sufi Muhammad, even began to communicate with the people of Swat through his “FM” radio station. Through his broadcasts he could muster up several thousand people in a few hours and appealed to the dispossessed, the young and even the women, solving their problem through his aunt agony program. The result was that they became his ardent supporters lavishing him with their jewelry. Fazlullah also exploited class warfare. Officials, the rich and well-off were targeted and the poor recruited.

After the Lal Masjid brutal action by the Pakistan government in Islamabad, its capital, in July 2007, where many Swati students lost their lives, a fresh and unprecedented wave of violence set in motion in Swat: A pattern was established: indiscriminate bombings, shootouts, army action, a lull, then a return to their barracks and a repeat of violence again. Amid these deaths and loss of property, rumors abounded in Swat of foreigners, of hardcore jihadis: Chechens and Uzbecks; of foreign governments; and even “foreign agents” – CIA, RAW and Musad. Some blamed the Pakistan intelligence of instigating these Taliban so that the US government could pay big bucks. Others blamed it on the internal battle between the Army and the ISI. Whatever it was it was causing unrelenting pain and anguish for the people of Swat.

More and more of our family members now set up home is Islamabad. Between 2007 and 2009 we would see family members targeted. Our first cousin Isfandiar Amirzeb, an Education Minister standing for his Provincial Assembly seat was blown up in his car with 8 others in the middle of his campaign a day after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; another first cousin Jamal Nasir, the Nizam-i-Ala, was regularly targeted and narrowly escaped when his car carrying his brother and family was bombed, his house was looted and burnt to the ground; another relative, also a member of Parliament, was dragged out of his home and killed along with two of his sons while his female relatives watched. Many more near and close friends and relatives would have the same fate. The Taliban, and their foreign helpers, using bombs and suicide methods – alien to Swatis – have since killed or disfigured thousands of people including security personnel. They have blown up more than 200 schools, many of which were girls’ schools like the Presentation Convent in Sangota. The destruction of property and homes has resulted in over 3 million refugees.

Earlier, in response to the Taliban, the army action was sporadic. Over the last few weeks it has been more focused but it is seen as brutal, killing and wounding more innocent people than the militants and destroying property. It has also led to the greatest displacement in recent Pakistan history with over 3 million refugees living in the most squalid conditions. Army action without political and civil solutions is bound to fail. The Wali could not have been successful without this lesson of history: the army must return to its barracks after short-term action, the civil servant must live among the people for long-term solutions.

The Taliban talk of emulating the Wali’s system but the Wali’s government was geared to efficiency; swift and fair justice; impeccable security; grassroots development and excellent transport and communication systems? Swat is very much part of the Government of Pakistan. Unlike the tribal areas, it has no treaties for independent governance. The writ of Pakistan is and must be final. Everyone must obey its law including the Taliban. The Government of Pakistan must reinstate its institutions and govern the people of Swat in accordance with its law. That is why the Taliban cannot be allowed to set up an independent government. The people of Swat want the violence to stop whether it is from the Taliban, the army, or the Hellfire Missiles from alien drones.

The government of Pakistan must reclaim Swat and stop the scourge of terrorism that causes unrelenting pain and anguish, and give back the dignity of its people. It must ensure that the people return to their homes and are given justice, law and order and restore Swat to its former glory.

Zebu Jilani is President of the Swat Relief Initiative, and Zeenat Ahmed is the Program Manager of the Center for Dialogue, Peace and Action.

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Swat refugees desperately need your help!   May 15, 2009

Dear Friends,

My name is Zebu Jilani and I am the granddaughter of the last Wali (ruler) of Swat. As you must all have heard, the people of Swat are embroiled in a life-and-death struggle with the Taliban. There is such a total breakdown of law and order that even the Wali’s personal residence, which is the house I grew up in, has been occupied by the Taliban. 70% of the population has been displaced, and the people who remain in the valley are being mercilessly killed by the Taliban for minor infractions of their backward vision of Islamic law, and are also caught in the crossfire between the Taliban and the Pakistan army. Their situation is dire and we need to act immediately to alleviate their suffering.

I will be going to Pakistan on the 25th of May to personally help the refugees. Because of my family’s status, we have access to local people who are very talented and well educated, and I intend to mobilize them in the refugee camps. Among the refugees are at least 30 nurse practitioners who worked under my grandfather whom we could employ to give free healthcare to the people in the camps. Also among them are teachers and nurses who could be recruited to work in the camps. By providing employment and services, we could start making the camps self-sufficient instead of leaving the refugees solely dependent upon handouts.

Because of the urgency of this situation and the approaching summer heat, your support will be much appreciated because it will be particularly effective at this time. 100% of your donation will go directly towards preventing disease, death, and dependency in the refugee camps. If you check back in the near future, you will be updated on the progress of our work.

Best regards,

Zebu Jilani

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100% of donations go directly toward programs for disadvantaged people. SRI's board members pay for all overhead costs from their personal funds