Swat women fear Taliban return in Pakistan

Girls in Swat District, northwestern Pakistan, have gone back to school, and most women who had been prevented from working have returned to work, but people are still fearful.

According to the government’s National Commission on the Status of Women, there were 1,000-1,200 women factory workers in Mingora before the Taliban takeover in 2009. It is unknown how many have returned to work.

Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced from Swat in the spring and summer of 2009 due to intense fighting between government forces and Taliban militants. Most returned after the army regained control in July. (See Swat timeline)

A deep sense of trauma exists in many places. Since November 2009, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has set up 10 welfare centres, known as “Friend’s House” to offer support and counselling to those affected by conflict.

There are also reports from Swat that state action against militants is continuing, adding to the tension.

“We have credible reports of arbitrary detentions, including female relatives of militants,” Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told IRIN.

Meanwhile, Sardar Hussain Babak, education minister for the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), has told the media in Peshawar that since December 2009 there has been a 1 percent increase in female enrolment. This is a significant development in a part of the country where, according to official figures, the literacy rate for women stands at below 23 percent.

School infrastructure, however, is “in ruins”, according to Ibrash Pasha, an activist with the NGO Khwendo Kor, which works for the education of girls.

Part of a longer article at http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/f422492a36cd8f868b15ace5285e7fd4.htm

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