Pakistan Government’s appeasement policy seems to be boomeranging. The Taliban has seized control of the strategically important district of Buner near Islamabad, provoking fears that militants are attempting to spread their insurgency and their extreme brand of Islam, reports The Independent.
“The seizure by militants of the district in recent days underlines the strength of the insurgency and its ability to advance from the neighbouring Swat Valley which the Taliban controls, into the heart of Pakistan.
“The push by the Taliban and the associated violence has raised alarm in Washington. Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, yesterday warned of the ‘existential threat’ to the democratic government of Pakistan.
“His comments came a day after Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, blasted the Pakistani leadership for ‘abdicating’ to the Taliban by allowing it to impose Sharia law in the Swat Valley.
“In recent days, Taliban militants have used Swat as a staging ground for incursions into Buner. They have taken over the shrine of Pir Baba, a venerated Sufi saint, and established a makeshift sharia court. Masked gunmen have also erected checkpoints, begun patrolling the streets and barring women from public places.
“In scenes starkly reminiscent of the Taliban’s takeover of Swat, hundreds of local residents, some of whom formed an anti-Taliban local militia to rebuff an encroachment last year, have fled. More here…
A leading article says: With hindsight, it may be asked whether the concessions made by the government of Asif Ali Zardari that agreed a military truce and sanctioned the introduction of Sharia law into the Swat Valley were mistaken. Both moves undoubtedly signalled a retreat by the central government. More here…
Pakistani television stations aired footage of Taliban soldiers looting government offices and capturing vehicles belonging to aid organizations and development projects. More here…
Photo above courtesy The Independent: A Pakistani barber looks out from his shop window in the Buner district. The words are a warning scrawled by the Taliban and read: ‘Do not shave.’
Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.)
Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department’s SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi.
In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF’s Eco-tourism policy.
He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on “Development Journalism” to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years.
In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India — West Bengal and Orissa.
Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia.
Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there.
He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation.
And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.