MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Im Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And Im Michele Norris.
Last year in Pakistan's Swat Valley, the Taliban hunted down people they said had violated their strict interpretation of Islam. Now, a year after the Pakistan army dislodged the Taliban, it is the citizens of Swat who have taken the law into their own hands with the help of the army.
NPR's Julie McCarthy recently traveled to Swat and has this report on the harsh treatment being meted out to families of Taliban members and sympathizers.
(Soundbite of door opening)
JULIE MCCARTHY: Sami Ullah opens the latch on the front door of his family house on the outskirts of Mingora, the main city in Swat Valley. But when he swings the door open, there is no house. There is only rubble and cloud of noise and dust.
(Soundbite of banging)
MCCARTHY: Sledgehammers heaving, the next door neighbor rebuilds a retaining wall between his house, which was lightly damaged, and Sami's, which was raised. Sami now sleeps in a room where the family stabled their one cow and calf, across the alleyway from his ruined home.
Mr. SAMI ULLAH: (Through Translator) I don't want to visit this place, you know, again and again because once I see it my feelings are that of grief. And it is pushing me toward mental disturbance.
MCCARTHY: The 19-year-old engineering student blames the army for demolishing his home as a form of collective punishment for having a relative who joined the Taliban. Sami admits that his older brother ran off with the militants three years ago, but says his father disowned him in 2007. He fingers a worn document officially stating so.
Last month, he says uniformed army personnel showed up to say the family had to vacate the premises, and the next day they were taken to a camp outside of Swat. Sami says an army representative dismissed his father's signed statement disowning his militant son.
Mr. ULLAH: (Through Translator) And he said these documents are not going to be of any help to you because now you have been moved to the camp, and you will not come back from the camp unless and until you bring your brother and he surrenders to the army.
MCCARTHY: Sami has been let out for exams and says he reports daily to the army. The army spokesman in Swat denies that the military demolished Sami's or anyone's home in a zeal to root out militant sympathizers.
Major Mushtaq Khan suggests it was locals looking to avenge their losses under the Taliban's brief but brutal rule.
Major MUSHTAQ KHAN (Spokesman, Afghan Army): Might be some civil people, might be the people of those villages who have destroyed their houses. But they are not army. Army don't do it.
MCCARTHY: Nor does the army decide whom to expel, according to Major Khan. He says that is purely a local matter, determined by community elders at a jirga, or assembly, in accordance with Pashtun culture and its consensus decision-making. To the extent the army is helping remove people that elders say should go, Major Khan says it's for their own good.
So you're saying this is a purely humanitarian gesture?
Maj. KHAN: Yes. Yes, purely humanitarian gesture, the army which is providing to the people. Why not?
MCCARTHY: Inam Rehman heads the local citizens' council that recently banished Sami Ullah's and 34 other families on suspicion of being informants for the Taliban. Rehman says four of his closest friends have been killed in the past two months in attacks that suggest the work of Taliban remnants here. He says it was difficult to banish longtime neighbors, but the council acted in self-defense.
Mr. INAM REHMAN (Leader, Swat Peace Jirga): (Through Translator) And the reason was that people were very, very angry, especially when the targeted killings started. We just expelled these limited number of families and so that it could serve as an example.
Mr. ZIAUDDIN YOUSAFZAI (Global Peace Council; Private Schools Association): It is against morality, against humanity...
MCCARTHY: Swat human rights advocate Ziauddin Yousafzai says the tactic undermines the very law and order last summer's army offensive was designed to restore. And he says the groups like the jirga that banished Sami's family are little more than rubberstamps for the army.
Mr. YOUSAFZAI: This policy was made by the army. Had there been an independent stance of the jirga, they might have questioned it, that why are you just expelling the whole family.
MCCARTHY: Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Director Sam Zarifi says Swat's ad hoc law enforcers, in concert with the government, are acting without any judicial process.
Mr. SAM ZARIFI (Director, Amnesty International Asia-Pacific): Collective punishment in which you destroy a community, destroy a family because of the alleged actions of a member of the family, is a violation of obviously the most basic kind of human rights, which is that individuals have rights in and of themselves.
MCCARTHY: Zarifi says the policy of collectively punishing families is also fanning a culture of reprisals.
Mr. ZARIFI: Because what we see is that these peace jirgas in many cases are simply carrying out old vendettas, old feuds...
MCCARTHY: Settling scores.
Mr. ZARIFI: Settling scores.
MCCARTHY: Sami Ullah, meanwhile, returned to Swat from Karachi today, where he was searching for his militant brother. He said the army urged him to go look there and told him to bring his brother back, dead or alive.
Julie McCarthy, NPR News.
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