12 October 2022
SWAT: Thousands of people took to the streets of Swat Valley on October 11 to protest against the rise in terrorism following the killing of a school bus driver on Monday.
The city-wide protest attended by more than 15,000 people was held a day after a terrorist attack on a school van in Swat in which a school bus driver was shot dead and a female student injured by an unknown assailant. The incident coincides with the 10th anniversary of the day activist Malala Yousufzai was shot by Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) in 2012.
Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai was shot and injured by TTP militants in Swat, along with two of her friends, for campaigning for girls’ education. She relocated to the UK due to death threats and just returned to Pakistan after four years to meet flood victims and visit areas devastated by the unprecedented monsoon flooding.
10 years after the internationally condemned incident the situation in Swat has improved but the latest attack marks a grim drawback. Police officials, however, have ruled out “terrorism” claiming it was a targetted personal attack on the individual according to their preliminary investigation. They further added that there has been no claim of responsibility for the attack so far.
Hundreds of protesters marched through the city streets and gathered at Nishat Chowk where speeches were given. Demonstrators chanted slogans against the rising militancy and demanded the government take stern action to restore peace in the area.
As one protestor exclaimed, “we are demanding the government control the terrorist elements who are back and spreading terror here,” he said. “We must be given protection, which is our constitutional right.”
Aimal Wali of Awami National Party, Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of Jamat-e- Islami and PTM Chairman Manzoor Pashteen addressed the charged crowd and reiterated the demand for peace and stability in the region.
It was the sixth such protest against militancy in the area since August. Swat was captured by TTP militants in 2007, resulting in mass internal migration of the civil population from the area.
It took two years and two military operations to flush out the TTP and regain control of the region. Nevertheless, despite TTP’s exit from Swat, extremist elements have remained active in the area – barring girls from attending school and making the lives of civilians difficult.
The recent surge in violent militancy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa comes after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on August 15, 2021 and the failure of peace talks between TTP and Pakistan’s government and security officials.