PAKISTAN

The Mingora diaries: a heart-wrenching farewell

As Pakistan’s armed forces step up their offensive against Taliban fighters in the country’s north-west, hundreds of thousands of civilians are desperately trying to flee the conflict zone. Our Observer, who lives just outside of Mingora in the restive Swat Valley, tells us his family has joined the growing flow of refugees – but he is staying behind. Read more...

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As Pakistan’s armed forces step up their offensive against Taliban fighters in the country’s north-west, hundreds of thousands of civilians are desperately trying to flee the conflict zone. Our Observer, who lives just outside the city of Mingora in the restive Swat Valley, tells us his family has joined the growing flow of refugees – but he is staying behind.

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

My brother was anxious to get out of this hell, so he jumped on the first opportunity. The authorities had earlier announced that they would temporarily lift the curfew to allow those who wished to flee to do so. The government is actually trying to empty the region of its inhabitants in order to reduce civilian casualties. But the Taliban is doing the opposite to ensure that the army cannot use air strikes.

We prepared a little travel pack for my brother, and I asked him to bring my wife and children with him, too. My oldest child, aged seven, broke into tears as he asked: “Baba, why are you not coming with us?” I told him I would be following in a few days, but I know I have to stay here to protect our house and our belongings.

As we approached the road, we came across thousands of people trying to get away. It was as though they were emptying Mingora. Truck drivers were charging much higher fares, but we decided not to take any chances this time [in an earlier post, Mohammed explained he had dropped the idea of taking a truck to leave the area because of the cost]. So my brother asked them to bring them to the nearest place outside Mingora. I said "Allah Haifiz"(God protect us) to my wife and children, who replied goodbye in English. I don’t know what will happen to them after the journey - nor do they know if they will see me again in life, or not.

Soon after, the curfew started again – and so did the battle."

 

Read Mohammed's previous accounts.