Jalaluddin lived with his family in Udigram, a town with a long history. It is in Swat district, few kilometers from Afghanistan. We've been watching the news about Swat in recent months. Taliban were active there, still are. Pakistan army had been ineffectively messing around up there. Pak army is factionalized. Part of it created the Taliban and still has contacts, sympathizers, etc. The other part deals with the official "government" and interacts with the rest of the world and all of us who are not Taliban hate the Taliban, don't we?
Udigram is here:
You can see on the map that the roads through Udigram don't go anywhere important, and that although the crow-fly distances are small the mountains and the roads make Udigram pretty out there.
Jalal told me about 2 years ago that Taliban came through on their way to take over Mingora but they didn't stay, Udigram is a who cares kind of place. He and I continued doing business during those months when we were getting daily updates on the Taliban being wierd in Mingora - flogging, beheading, etc. But not in Udigram.
I, from my ivory tower, advised him to leave immediately and all his family. He, um, didn't, at least not the immediate part.
So when the shit hit the fan and the Pak army finally found itself forced off its fat ass by world politics it sent columns of tanks up into the Swat valley, in which is Udigram, and once there they did what they do best, which is to whomp on their own people as a sort of demonstration to their enemies that they are really really serious. "We will do this to you" they are telling the Taliban. Instead of actually going at the Taliban. That would be, you know, dangerous. Taliban aren't stupid. They "melted into the background" (which is like the local gang just staying home and watching TV for a bit). Let the army do its thing. Anyway, they were tipped off and they vamoosed. Army was all locked and loaded, got to have something to put in the reports,
So they shot up Udigram, where there weren't any Taliban. But it was there.
Its funny, right? Jalaluddin was a taxpaying citizen with a real live business. The military activity there did not involve enemy engagement. Target practice more like it. Something could be shown to have been done.
I correspond with a few of his relatives too. One had his house flattened. Another one his house is OK but he's stuck somewhere else and can't get back there. In general a big mess. And the government, says Jalal, has some reason why it can't give him any money to rebuild. Not surprising I guess. They don't put any money into education either. Root of the problem there. Government doesn't do anything. Taliban schools at least taught SOMETHING. Money from Saudi Arabia. But let's get back to Jalal.
Remember how an aspect of the news reports when about a million pashtuns left Swat and descended mostly on the capital, Islamabad, not all that far away, was the extreme family/ethnic cohesiveness of the refugees. Like everyone found a corner of someone's room to camp in, so the misery, not being concentrated, and the succor being dealt with retail rather than wholesale, its was relatively speaking calm and controlled. Jalal was part of that scene, he's been doing OK, got out soon enough, everyone safe.
He tells me there's $100,000 damage to his home. Big house, lots of people lived in it. He wondered if I could put out an appeal on my website. I told him that it was highly unlikely that any kind of real money could be expected to come out of such an appeal, then again you never know, do you?
But I can tell his story. Maybe someone. Maybe something. Because you just happened to read this. Because he just happened to know me.
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Here are the pictures. Click for enlargements.