History

History of Swat & 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.

1917 - Swat State

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.

Miangul Abdul Wadood

1947 - Independence of Pakistan

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.

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.

1969 - 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.

Human Development Foundation

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

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.

2015 - Earthquake

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

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”.

Letter from the Founders

Dear Friends,

We have always felt a debt of gratitude to the social institutions under which we grew up: Pakistan in the 60’s.  Today, unfortunately, those institutions are but a pale semblance of what they used to be. We were privileged but came from families that, despite their station in society, gave and taught us to give of ourselves to those who were less privileged.

This background, and our subsequent achievements in life, put us in a position to help the most needy people in Pakistan.  We are most effective in Swat:  This is in the region we are from, this is where we best know the people and this is where the people know us well.

We started Swat Relief Initiative at a time when the people of Swat went through the first major trauma of three major disasters: the 2008 Taliban takeover, the ensuing 2009 war and the 2010 mega-floods.

The most vulnerable segments of Swati society are the women and children – they are our focus.  We bring the men along too, for they are key to helping develop a milieu in which women and children can grow into fully contributing members of society.

We have a holistic approach to social growth with programs in Social Mobilization, Health, Education, Economic Development and Sustainable Environment. While working in these areas of social development we partner, when necessary, with individuals and organizations that can supplement our expertise and impact.

Of course, we cannot do any of this without the help of your continuing generous contributions, which we continue to pledge will go directly to where they are needed the most: programs and projects on the ground that provide the greatest opportunity for less fortunate women and children to thrive.

Thanks,

Zebu and Arshad Jilani