Mon, Mar 03, 2014 - Page 5 News List

FEATURE: Pakistani military fuels anger in securing Swat Valley from Taliban

Reuters, KHWAZAKHELA, Pakistan

Shah pointed to a piece of muddy ground where a crane sat next to big metal containers that formed a boundary wall. About 20 soldiers stood guard.

“That was my orchard,” he said.

Nadar Shah’s uncle, Shah Husain, owned one of the biggest apple orchards in the area, but the army took it over in 2008 with a promise of US$50,000, Husain said.

Waving documents in the air, he said he had only got US$1,000.

“If this goes on, these dying orchards will become the breeding ground for more Taliban,” Husain said.

Swat Deputy Commissioner Imtiaz Hussain said the villagers were getting proper compensation.

“People have been, and will be, compensated for every tree, every well and every building acquired for the base,” Hussain said. “No one is occupying them.”

The army declined to comment, but one senior officer denied that the army was grabbing land, saying all the land it used had been allotted by the civilian administration.

Looming over Swat is the threat of local boy Mullah Fazlullah, who heads the Pakistani Taliban.

It was Fazlullah who organized fighters to take the valley over in 2007.

He is now based over the border in Afghanistan where he plots his fight against Pakistan, and, many fear, his return to Swat.

“Fazlullah has slowly rebuilt his militia,” a Pakistani intelligence official said. “He has to be kept away. We need this base.”

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