PAKISTAN

The Mingora diaries: trapped between the Taliban and the army

The Pakistani Army launched a widespread offensive against the Taliban, pushing the militants back to the city of Mingora, in the restive Swat Valley, north-west of the capital Islamabad. Our Observer, who lives three kilometres from the centre, tells us that the residents there are rapidly running out of essentials, and, for the first time, he's considering fleeing his home. Read more...

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The Pakistani Army has launched a widespread offensive against the Taliban, pushing the militants back to the city of Mingora, in the restive Swat Valley, north-west of the capital Islamabad. Our Observer, who lives three kilometres from the centre, tells us that the residents there are rapidly running out of essentials, and, for the first time, he's considering fleeing his home.

Mohammed Aziz (not his real name) lives in Saidu Sharif, just outside Mingora.

After several days of fighting people are desperate to leave their homes and their beloved city because there is no food, no water and no electricity. The medical stores are closed: people who suffer from ailments like diabetes and blood pressure problems are very much in trouble. As the curfew was relaxed a bit today, I went outside to have a look at the situation. As I reached the road I saw a very long line, about 2-3 kilometres long, of people waiting for the city's out-roads to open. They must have been in the thousands.

Swat Valley has a population of about 1.8 million people and half of them have already left this heavenly city. There were vans and trucks loaded with people and their luggage. The majority of the people however are too poor; workers paid on a daily basis. I myself packed a small amount of luggage and tried to make a deal with a driver but he demanded four to five times more than the normal amount. I don't have that much money so I abandoned the idea of leaving. My elder child keeps asking me again and again, ‘Baba, when are we going to Dargai?' Dargai is a place where a refugee camp has been set up. My wife is worried about tonight's meal. Today there were hundreds of women and children in the queue for the only natural water fountain in the town. Sometimes quarrels start up about whose turn it is.

Today more army troops reached us and we hear that more soldiers are coming from Malakand. They have control of three of the outgoing roads while the main road is still in possession of the Taliban. Today there were no big battles, but planes and helicopters fly overhead on an hourly basis. I think the army is preparing for a big battle. The Taliban radio announced today that they are ready to take on the enemy.

At the moment, there is a very cool breeze and it looks like it may start to rain. My son is asking again, Baba, when are we going to leave?"

Read Mohammed's previous accounts.