PAKISTAN

The Mingora diaries: “a fierce battle is going on”

Pakistan’s army has temporarily suspended a curfew in the Swat valley to help stranded civilians escape raging battles between Pakistani forces and the Taliban. Three days ago our Observer in Mingora told us his family had escaped, but he was staying behind. Now, his brother says he has no news from the war zone.

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Pakistan’s army has temporarily suspended a curfew in the Swat valley to help stranded civilians escape raging battles between Pakistani forces and the Taliban.

Three days ago our Observer in Mingora told us his family had escaped, but he was staying behind. Now, his brother says he has no news from the war zone.

Nazir (not his real name) has fled Mingora, in Pakistan's war-torn Swat valley.

When we reached Dargai, where we are now staying with our relatives, we were able to get Aziz on the phone to tell him that we had arrived safely after a very difficult journey. He told us that a fierce battle was going on in the Mingora area, with air strikes and artillery fire. Every one is very frightened, but there are about a thousand people who refuse to leave their homeland.

Aziz spoke to his elder son and promised that he would “come soon” – but I know it is a promise he cannot keep.

That was our last conversation with him. We have tried calling him and other people who are still in the Swat valley, but there was no answer. Many people are now dead.

As his wife started weeping I decided to call a contact Aziz had told us about. His name is Ajmal Shah Din. We asked him to help us broadcast an appeal to the Pakistani government to lift the curfew again so that the remaining people may flee the Swat valley. My cousin, who owns a car, had promised to bring go back to Mingora to fetch Aziz if the curfew was relaxed.

Ajmal said he would help us contact Pakistani TV channels. They started broadcasting our appeal on Thursday. One of his colleagues, the famous TV anchor Naseem Zehra, even spoke to me during her show on Dunya TV.

I think our efforts have worked because the government has just announced it is suspending the curfew to help people flee the war zone. The authorities have also organised some means of transport.

My cousin Behroz has moved his car back towards the Swat valley, and we are anxiously waiting to see Aziz.

Read previous entries from the Mingora diaries.

Hard times in the Swat valley

Before disappearing, Mohammed Aziz sent us this picture of people gathering at the well in his village, Saidu Sharif, three kilometres from Mingora. This was before the battle got ugly.