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New Yorker: Why Pakistan Lionizes Its Tormenters

Author: Mohammed Hanif
November 14, 2013


"Why does Pakistan's political and military élite celebrate the very people it is fighting? The logic—or its absence—goes like this: Hakimullah Mehsud was our enemy. But the United States is also our enemy. So how dare the Americans kill him?"

Four years ago, in the main street of Mingora, the largest town in Pakistan's Swat Valley, I saw a man trying to make and sell kebabs. The coals weren't catching fire, he was fanning them with a rolled-up newspaper, and the skewers were all over the place; it was quite obvious that the man was new to this type of work.

Swat had just been handed over to a man called Mullah Fazlullah, who had terrorized the valley in a bid to usher in his one and only version of Sharia law. He was trying to achieve this by running a very lively and illegal FM radio station and commanding a bunch of fighters from tribal areas, along with young sectarian zealots from the Punjab who specialized in blowing up girls' schools and slitting the throats of Pakistani soldiers. They didn't like dancers, so they pulled one out of her home and executed her in the bazaar. They also didn't care much for barbershops, video stores, or women. Under Fazlullah's regime, the main square in Mingora was known as Khooni Chowk—"Bloody Square"—because his fighters dumped their victims' bodies there.

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