PBS, April 20, 2009
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The city of Peshawar is on high alert. The Taliban are closing in, regularly attacking police convoys, kidnapping diplomats, and shooting foreigners. The fighting across this volatile region has driven thousands of families from their homes and many have found shelter in Peshawar.
Correspondent Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is traveling across her fractured homeland to investigate the rising popularity of a new Pakistani branch of the Taliban, now threatening the major cities, blowing up girls’ schools and declaring war on the Pakistani state.
Her journey begins at a rehabilitation center in Peshawar, where she talks with many young victims caught in the crossfire of this war.
“We saw the dead body of a policeman tied to a pole,” an articulate young girl named Qainat tells the reporter quietly. “His head had been chopped off. It was hanging between his legs. There was a note saying that if anyone moved the dead body, they would share its fate.”
Before the Taliban took control of Qainat’s village, the women in her family attended university and worked. But now the Taliban has banned girls from going to school.
Qainat is from Swat, a 100-mile-long valley in the north of Pakistan, three hours drive from Peshawar. Until recently, Swat was known as the Switzerland of the east, and had a thriving tourist industry.
Two years ago, hundreds of Taliban fighters moved into the valley from the adjoining tribal areas, when the Pakistani Army drove them out.
Driving through the streets of Swat filming surreptitiously, Obaid-Chinoy sees Swati women wearing the burqa. This never used to be the case.
The Taliban often use radio broadcasts to drive home their message.
In one typical address, a preacher proclaims:
“Sharia Law is our right, and we will exercise this right whatever happens. We will make ourselves suicide bombers! I swear to God if our leader orders me, I will sacrifice myself… and blow myself up in the middle of our enemies.“
The Taliban have destroyed more than 200 government schools in Swat since they took control of the region. Walking through the rubble of a school that once taught 400 girls, the reporter comes across two nine-year-old girls who used to study there.
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