Sunday, February 22, 2009

Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl 2.0

Finally reading this article I am relieved.
I don't know what sort of bonding is this; but since the time I read her previous articles on BBC, I have been checking the site everyday to know about her and her safety. Swat has been in news everyday; first because of the continuous violence between the religious hardliners and people being killed, and now about the peace agreement, ceasefire and Sharia law, that was imposed in the region.
I really don't know how good will this be for the common people in Swat, for the people of Pakistan, for India or for the world community, but after reading this article I am atleast happy to know that the schools have reopen and peace has been restored in Swat.

Here is what she noted in her diary in the last 20 days.

SATURDAY 24 JANUARY: 'MAKING A GRAVE'
The only good thing that has come out of the war in Swat is that our father has taken us away from Mingora (the largest city in the Swat valley) to many other cities. We arrived in Peshawar from Islamabad yesterday. In Peshawar we had tea at one of our relative's houses before travelling to Bannu.

My five-year-old brother was playing on the lawn. When my father asked him what he was playing, he replied 'I am making a grave'.
Later we went to a bus stand to travel to Bannu. The wagon was old and the driver was using his horn excessively. On our way the vehicle hit a pot-hole - and at the same time the horn started blowing - waking up my 10-year-old brother.
He was very scared and asked our mother: 'Was it a bomb blast?'
On arrival in Bannu, we found my father's friend waiting for us. He is also a Pashtun but his family spoke a Bannu dialect so we could not understand him clearly.
We went to the bazaar and then to the park. Here women have to wear a veil - called a shuttle veil - whenever they leave their homes. My mother also wore one but I refused to wear one on the grounds that I found it difficult to walk with it on.
Compared with Swat, there is relative peace in Bannu. Our hosts told us that there was a Taleban presence was in the area but there was not as much unrest as in Swat. They said that the Taleban had threatened to close down the schools, but they were still open.

SATURDAY 31 JANUARY: WHO WILL AVENGE THOSE KILLED?
On our way back to Peshawar from Bannu I received a call from my friend. She was very scared and told me that the situation in Swat was getting worse and I should not come back. She told me that the military operation has intensified and 37 people have been killed only today in the shelling.

We arrived in Peshawar in the evening and were very tired. I switched on the TV and there was a report on Swat. The channel was showing empty-handed people migrating on foot from Swat.
I switched the channel and a woman was saying "we will avenge the murder of Benazir Bhutto". I asked my father who would avenge the deaths of hundreds of people of Swat.

SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY: SCHOOL MEMORIES
I am sad watching my uniform, school bag and geometry box.
I felt hurt on opening my wardrobe and seeing my uniform, school bag and geometry box. Boys' schools are opening tomorrow. But the Taleban have banned girls' education.

The memories of my school flashed before me, especially the arguments among the girls.
My brother's school is also reopening and he has not done his homework. He is worried and does not want to go to school. My mother mentioned a curfew tomorrow and my brother asked her if it was really going to be imposed. When my mother replied in the affirmative he started dancing with joy.

MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY: PRECARIOUS
Boys' schools in Swat have reopened and the Taleban have lifted restrictions on girls' primary education - therefore they are also attending schools. In our school there is co-education until primary level.
My younger brother told us that out of 49 students only six attended his school including a girl. In my school, only a total of 70 pupils attended out of 700 students who are enrolled.
Today the maid came. She normally comes once a week to wash our clothes.
She comes from Attock district but she has been living in this area for years now. She told us that the situation in Swat has become "very precarious" and that her husband has told her to go back to Attock.
People do not leave their homeland on their own free will - only poverty or a lover usually makes you leave so rapidly.

WEDNESDAY 11 FEBRUARY: EXPLOSION WARNINGS
I was scared the whole day and also bored. We do not have a TV set now. There was a burglary in our house while we were away in Mingora for 20 days.
Earlier such incidents did not happen, but they have become rampant since the security situation in Mingora deteriorated so rapidly. Thank God there was no cash or gold in the house. My bracelet and anklet were also missing but I later found them. Maybe the burglar thought of them as gold ornaments but later found out they were artificial.
Maulana Fazlullah in a speech last night on his FM channel said that a recent attack on a police station in Mingora (the largest town in the Swat valley) was akin to a pressure cooker blast. He said that the next attack would resemble a cauldron exploding and after that a blast the size of a tanker exploding would take place.
At night my father updated us on the situation of Swat. These days we frequently use words like 'army', 'Taleban', 'rocket', 'artillery shelling', 'Maulana Fazlullah', 'Muslim Khan' (a militant leader), 'police', 'helicopter', 'dead' and 'injured'.

THURSDAY 12 FEBRUARY: HEAVY SHELLING
There was heavy shelling last night. Both my brothers were sleeping but I could not. I went to lie down with my father but then went to my mother, but could not sleep.
That was why I also woke up late in the morning. In the afternoon I had tuition, then my teacher for religious education came. In the evening I continued playing with my brothers amid fighting and arguments. Also played games on computer for a while.
Before the Taleban imposed restrictions on the cable network, I used to watch the Star Plus TV channel and my favourite drama was 'Raja Kee Aye Gee Barat' (My dream boy will come to marry me).
Today is Thursday and I am scared because people say that most suicide attacks take place either on Friday mornings or on Friday evenings. They also say that the reason behind this is is because the suicide attacker thinks that Friday has a special importance in Islam and carrying out such attacks on this day will please God more.

SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY: DON'T BE SCARED
Some guests from our village and Peshawar came today. When we were having lunch, firing started outside. I had never heard such firing. We got scared, thought that the Taleban had arrived. I ran towards my father who consoled me by telling me 'Don't be scared - this is firing for peace'.
He told me that he read in the newspaper that the government and the militants are to sign a peace deal tomorrow and he firing is in jubilation. Later, during the night when the Taleban announced the peace deal on their FM station, another spell of more stronger firing started. People believe more in what the militants say rather then the government.

When we heard the announcement, first my mother and then father started crying. My two younger brothers had tears in their eyes too.

MONDAY 16 FEBRUARY: REOPENING?
Today I was very happy because the government and the militants were to sign a peace deal. Today the helicopters were flying very low too. One of my cousins remarked that with the gradual return of peace the choppers were coming down too.
In the afternoon people started distributing sweets. One of my friends called me to greet me. She said she hopes she could go out of her home now because she was imprisoned in her room for the last several months. We were also happy hoping the girls' schools might open now.

TUESDAY 17 FEBRUARY: HUSTLE AND BUSTLE
Today I started preparing for the examinations because after the peace deal there is a hope that girls' schools could reopen. My teacher did not turn up today because she went to attend an engagement.

When I entered my room I saw my two brothers playing. One had a toy helicopter while the other had a pistol made of paper. One would yell "fire" and the other would say "take position". One of my brothers told my father he wanted to make an atomic bomb.
Maulana Sufi Mohammad is in Swat today. The media are here too. The city is witnessing a lot of rush. The city's hustle and bustle has returned. May God help make this agreement successful. I am optimistic.

WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY: HOPE SMASHED
I went to the market today. It was crowded. People are happy about the deal. I saw a traffic jam after a long time. In the evening my father broke the news of the death of a Swat journalist (Musa Khankhel). Mom's is not feeling well. Our hopes of peace have been smashed.

THURSDAY 19 FEBRUARY: PEACE NOT WAR
My father prepared breakfast today because my mum is not feeling well. She complained to my father, asking why did he tell her about the journalist's death? I told my brothers that we will not talk of war but peace from now on. We received the information from our school headmistress that examinations will be held in the first week of March. I have stepped up my studies.



Well I hope, the peace lasts forever, and every boy and girls lives a happy and fearless life.

1 comment:

Prasoon Joshi said...

I hate to be the one saying this but the fact is that the ceasefire is an arrangement by Pakistan government to come out of the embarrassing situation in Swat with dignity while taking least responsibility of the affairs taking place in the region.
The 'sharia' law would make the life of the common people even more hellish (with the taliban now given 'control' over the affairs in the region with the enforcement of sharia), girls like these will not get the right to education under sharia, pashtuns will be prosecuted for being what they are, Islam would be insulted in the name of 'sharia'!