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Swat District
—  District  —
Location of Swat District (highlighted in yellow) within the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan.
Country  Pakistan
Province North-West Frontier Province
Capital Saidu Sharif
 - District Nazim Jamal Nasir Khan (PML)
 - District Naib Nazim
 - Total 5,337 km2 (2,060.6 sq mi)
Population (1998)
 - Total 1,257,602
 Density 236/km2 (611.2/sq mi)
Time zone PST (UTC+5)
District Council

Swat (Pakhto: سوات) is a valley and an administrative district in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan located 160 km/100 miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. It is the upper valley of the Swat River, which rises in the Hindu Kush range. The capital of Swat is Saidu Sharif, but the main town in the Swat valley is Mingora.[1] It was a princely state (see Swat (princely state)) in the NWFP until it was dissolved in 1969. With high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes, it is a place of great natural beauty that used to be popular with tourists as "the Switzerland of Pakistan".[2].

In December 2008 most of the area was captured by the Taliban insurgency and it is now considered dangerous for tourism. The Islamist militant leader Maulana Fazlullah and his group Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi have banned education for girls and have bombed or torched "more than 170 schools along with other government-owned buildings."[3] The Pakistani government in late May 2009 began a military offensive to regain control of the region. Swat is now cleared of Taliban.



The Swat River is mentioned in the Rig Veda 8.19.37 as the Suvastu river.[4] The first historical mention of the valley goes back to a hymn of the Rigveda(Stein, 1929:viii).[5] Swat has been inhabited for over two thousand years and was known in ancient times as the Udyana. The independent monarchs of this region came under Achaemenid influence, before reverting back to local control in the 4th century BC.[citation needed] In 327 BC, Alexander the Great fought his way to Udegram and Barikot. In Greek accounts these towns have been identified as Ora and Bazira. By 305 BC, the region became a part of the Mauryan Empire.[citation needed]

Buddhist heritage of Swat

Although it is generally accepted that Tantric Buddhism first developed in the country of Uddiyana under King Indrabhuti, there is an old and well-known scholarly dispute as to whether Uddiyana was in the Swat valley, Orissa or some other place.

Padmasambhava (flourished eighth century AD), also called Guru Rimpoche, Tibetan Slob-dpon (teacher), or Padma ‘byung-gnas (lotus born) legendary Indian Buddhistic Mystic who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet and is credited with establishing the first buddhist monastery there.

According to tradition, Padmasambhava was native to Udyana (now Swat in Pakistan).[6] Padmasambhava was the son of Indrabhuti, king of Swat in the early eighth century AD. One of the original Siddhas, Indrabhuti flourished in the early eighth century AD and was the king of Uddiyana in north western India (identified with the Kabul valley). His son Padmasambhava is revered as the second Buddha in Tibet. Indrabhuti's sister, Lakshminkaradevi, was also an accomplished siddha of the 9th century AD.[7]

Ancient Gandhara, the valley of Pekhawar, with the adjacent hilly regions of Swat and Buner, Dir and Bajaur was one of the earliest centers of Buddhist religion and culture following the reign of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, in the third century BC. The name Gandhara first occurs in the Rigveda which is usually identified with the region [8]

The secular Swat museum has acquired footprints of the Buddha, which were originally placed for devotion in the sacred Swat valley. When the Buddha ascended, relics (personal items, body parts, ashes etc.) were distributed to seven kings, who built stupas over them for veneration.

The Harmarajika stupa (Taxila) and Butkarha (Swat) stupa at Jamal Garha were among the earliest Gandhara stupas. These were erected on the orders of King Ashoka and contained the genuine relics of the historic Buddha.[citation needed]

The Gandhara school is credited with the first representations of the Buddha in human form, rather symbolically as the wheel of the law, the tree, etc.[citation needed]

As Buddhist art developed and spread outside India, Indian styles were imitated. In China the Gandhara style was imitated in bronze images, with gradual changes in the features of these images over the passage of time. Swat, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated throughout the Buddhist world as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. Swat was a popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims. Buddhist tradition holds that Buddha himself came to Swat during his incarnation as Gautama Buddha and preached to the people here.

It is said that the Swat valley was filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. Archaeologists now know of more than 400 Buddhist sites covering an area of 160 km in Swat valley alone. Among the important excavations of Buddhist sites in Swat an important one is Butkarha-I, containing original relics of the Buddha. A stone statue of Buddha, is still there in the village Ghalegay.[citation needed] There is also a big stupa in Mohallah Singardar Ghalegay.[citation needed]

Hindu Shahi Rulers and Sanskrit

Swat was ruled by the Hindu Shahi dynasty who have built an extensive array of temples and other architectural buildings now in ruins. Sanskrit was the language of the Swatis.[9]

Hindu Shahi rulers built fortresses to guard and tax the commerce through this area. Their ruins can be seen in the hills of Swat: at Malakand pass at Swat’s southern entrance.[10]

Advent of Islam by Mahmud of Ghazni

Scenery from a restaurant near Mingora, Swat Valley

At the end of the Mauryan period (324-185 BC) Buddhism spread in the whole Swat valley, which became a very famous center of Buddhist religion .[11]

After a Buddhist phase the Hindu religion reasserted itself, so that at the time of the Muslim conquest (AD1000) the population was solidly Hindu (ibid,ix)[12]

In 1023 Mahmood of Ghazni attacked Swat and crushed the last Buddhist King, Raja Gira in battle. The invasion of Mahmood of Ghazni is of special importance because of the introduction of Islam as well as changing the Chronology.[13]

The first Muslim masters of Swat were Pakhtun Dilazak tribes from south-east Afghanistan. These were later ousted by Swati Pakhtuns, who were succeeded in the sixteenth century by Yusufzai Pakhtuns. Both groups of Pakhtuns came from the Kabul valley [14]

Later, when the King of Kabul Mirza Ulagh Beg attempted to assassinate the dominant chiefs of the Yusufzais they took refuge under the umbrella of the Swati Kings of Swat and Bajour. The whole area was dominated by the Swati/Jahangiri Sultans of Swat for centuries. According to H. G. Raverty, the Jahangiri Kings of Swat had ruled from Jalalabad to Jhelum. After more than two decades of guerrilla warfare, they were dispossessed by the Yusufzais.


The population at the 1981 Census was 715,938, which had risen to 1,257,602 at the next Census in 1998. The main language of the area is Pakhto. The people of Swat are mainly Pakhtuns, Yusufzai's, Kohistanis and Gujars. Some have very distinctive features. Most probably they are originated from the same tribe who are roamed around the great trans-Himalayan mountain ranges thousands of years before, and now remained in some isolated but extremely beautiful pockets of Himalayan mountain ranges.

The Dardic people of the Kalam region in northern Swat are known as Kohistanis and speak the Torwali and Kalami languages. There are also some Khowar speakers in the Kalam region. This is because before Kalam came under the rule of Swat it was a region tributary to Chitral the Kalamis paid a tribute of mountain ponies to the Mehtar of Chitral every year.

Tourist attractions

PTDC Motel at Malam Jabba Ski Resort.

There is a popular ski resort in Swat at Malam Jabba, 40 km north east of Saidu Sharif, closed in 2007 due to the decreasing ability of the Pakistani government to maintain security in the region. In June 2008, the ski resort was burned down by militants.[15]


The region has gone through considerable changes over the last few years since the dissolution of the Swat (princely state) in 1969. Members of the former Royal family have been elected to represent the area in the Provincial Assemby and National Assembly on occasion since then.

The district is represented in the provincial assembly by seven elected MPAs who represent the following constituencies:[16]

Provincial & national politics

The region elects two male members of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNAs), one female MNA, seven male members of the Provincial Assembly of the North-West Frontier Province (MPAs) and two female MPAs. In the 2002 National and Provincial elections, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of religious political parties, won all the seats amidst a wave of anti-Americanism that spread after the United States invasion of Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgency

By January 2003, there was a notable increase in violence as militant groups in the Swat valley, led by radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah, began attacking and killing civilians as well as police checkposts in Swat.[17] In 59 villages, the militants set up a "parallel government" with Islamic courts imposing sharia law. By 2009 the region was largely under effective militant control, despite the presence of 20,000 Pakistani troops.[18] Local opponents of the militants have been harshly critical of Pakistani civil society for its lack of concern for their plight as well as critical of the military and provincial government for their ineffective measures for controlling the tide of militancy.[19]

Late 2007

After a four-month truce ended in late September 2007, fighting resumed.[20] The paramilitary Frontier Constabulary was deployed to the area, but initially were reported to be ineffective. On November 16, 2007 Militants were reported to have captured Alpuri district headquarters in neighbouring Shangla. The local police fled without resisting the advancing militant force which, in addition to local militants, also included Uzbek, Tajik and Chechen volunteers.[21]

In late November 2007, Pakistani regular forces threw out Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi militants from its stronghold in the Kabal District of north-western Swat. About 250 militants died in two weeks of fighting according to Pakistani authorities and the militants retreated into the mountains.[1] By December 2007, the militants were on the run, with the valley "largely cleared".[22] Pakistani officials stated at that time that it would take four months to re-establish functioning institutions in the area, in the wake of Islamist ruin.[22]

Developments in 2009

A January 21, 2009 issue of the Pakistan daily newspaper The News, reports Taliban enforcement of a complete ban on female education in the Swat district. Some 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls have been shut down. At least 10 girls' schools that tried to open after the January 15, 2009 deadline by the Taliban were blown up by the militants in the town of Mingora, the headquarters of the Swat district.[23] "More than 170 schools have been bombed or torched, along with other government-owned buildings."[3]

In a stated attempt at bringing peace to this region, the Pakistani Government on 16 February 2009, signed a peace accord with the Taliban and agreed to the imposition of Sharia law in Swat and suspension of military offensives against the Taliban. This agreement invoked mixed reactions from the locals: some are relieved on the prospect of relative peace, while others are more skeptical about the Talibanisation of this scenic paradise and the push that this accord would give to the spread of Taliban's movement in Pakistan.[24] International concern primarily stems from the rigidity with which the Taliban is seen to be imposing Sharia. Others point to the impact such an accord will have in empowering radical Islamists and the jihadi movement in Pakistan and elsewhere.[25]

February 2009 ceasefire

The Pakistani government announced on February 16, 2009 that it would allow Sharia law in the Malakand region. In return, Fazlullah's followers agreed to observe a ceasefire negotiated by Sufi Muhammad.[26][27][28]

Reactions to Ceasefire
  • NATO feared that the agreement would only serve to allow militants to regroup and to create a safe haven for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.[29]
  • Amnesty International expressed concern that the agreement would legitimize human rights abuses in the region.[26]
  • The people of Swat have welcomed this peace-agreement as welcome respite from the fighting that had brought their lives to a standstill. However, reports from the area suggest that this agreement has been accepted by them out of fear of continuous fighting that has destroyed the once scenic tourist haven.[citation needed] With the imposition of Nizam-e-Adl, some colleges and schools, including those for women, have reopened.[citation needed] However, women have to conceal themselves from head to toe as per the Islamic law or Shariah.[citation needed] Furthermore, Pakistanis are now scared that this deal may only serve to embolden militants to spread their influence into more settled parts of Pakistan.[citation needed]

Despite the reported ceasefire, the Taliban have refused to lay down their arms[30]. Various international political and security analysts are opining that this deal and refusal to lay down arms may have devastating effects on the stability of Pakistan.[31][32][33]

April-May 2009 Pakistani offensive

Through a media broadcast, the Pakistani government announced in late April that it would fight the Taliban in the Swat Valley, this war is called swat operation. This led to a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations Commissioner for Refugees announced that between 150,000 to 200,000 civilians had fled the war zone.[citation needed] The Pakistani military took back multiple Taliban strongholds, such as Rama Kandhao ridge in Matta and a Taliban headquarters in Loenamal. On the 8th of May, the Pakistani military announced that around 80 Taliban fighters had been killed and two Pakistani soldiers had been injured. Air strikes, artillery bombardment and rocket attacks by helicopter gunships are being undertaken extensively. As of 11 May, the military spokesperson of the ISPR report that as many as 200 militants had been killed in the fighting with Pakistan Army troops, also that Pakistan helibourne commandos had been inserted in the area which is the main stronghold of these militants.[34] By early June 2009, most of Swat was freed from Taliban and Mingora, the main town of Swat, was in complete government control and then pakistan government started focusing army on South Waziristan.[citation needed]

'Current Situation swat has again established it self a tourist destination, all Taliban forces have been removed from Pakistan.

See also


  1. ^ a b [1]"Pakistan troops seize radical cleric's base: officials", Agence France Presse article, November 28, 2007, accessed same day
  2. ^ In the Realm of Mullah Fazlullah
  3. ^ a b The News, Pakistan, January 21, 2009
  4. ^ Journal of Indian History By University of Kerala Dept. of History, University of Allahabad Dept. of Modern Indian History, University of Travancore, University of Kerala Published by Dept. of Modern Indian History, 1963 page 28
  5. ^ Features of Person and Society in Swat: Collected Essays on Pathans By Fredrik Barth Edition: illustrated Published by Routledge, 1981 Page 19
  6. ^ Students' Britannica India By Dale Hoiberg, Indu Ramchandani Page 138
  7. ^ Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh: Up to 8th Century A.D., by Omacanda Hāṇḍā Edition: illustrated Published by Indus Publishing, 1994 Page 89
  8. ^ Architecture and Art Treasures in Pakistan By F. A. Khan, published by Elite Publishers, 1969]
  9. ^ Sorrow and Joy Among Muslim Women The Pukthuns of Northern Pakistan By Amineh Ahmed Published by Cambridge University Press, 2006 Page 21.
  10. ^ Swat: An Afghan Society in Pakistan: Urbanisation and Change in Tribal Environment By Inam-ur-Rahim, Alain M. Viaro Published by City Press, 2002 Page 59
  11. ^ Features of Person and Society in Swat: Collected Essays on Pathans By Fredrik Barth Edition: illustrated Published by Routledge, 1981 Page 20
  12. ^ Features of Person and Society in Swat: Collected Essays on Pathans By Fredrik Barth Edition: illustrated Published by Routledge, 1981 Page 20
  13. ^ Proceedings of the Second International Hindukush Cultural Conference By Elena Bashir, Israr-ud-Din Contributor Elena Bashir, Israr-ud-Din Published by Oxford University Press, 1990 ,Page 50
  14. ^ Features of Person and Society in Swat: Collected Essays on Pathans By Fredrik Barth Edition: illustrated Published by Routledge, 1981 Page 20
  15. ^ "Malam Jabba ski resort torched". The Nation. 2008-06-28. 
  16. ^ Constituencies and MPAs - Website of the Provincial Assembly of the N-W.F.P
  17. ^ timeline
  18. ^ Desperate moves on to secure Swat — the lost valleyJanuary 15, 2009 Dawn group
  19. ^ From Swat – with no loveThursday, January 08, 2009 By Zubair Torwali
  20. ^ Qayum, Khalid and Ahmed, Khaleeq, "Pakistan Deploys Troops in Swat to Curb Militants Bloomberg News, October 25, 2007, article references Dawn newspaper in Pakistan, "citing Badshah Gul, home secretary of the province"; accessed November 7, 2007
  21. ^ "Militants Gain Despite Decree by Musharraf" article by Jane Perlez and Ismail Khan in The New York Times November 15, 2007
  22. ^ a b Pakistan hunting Swat militants - BBC News
  23. ^ The News, Pakistan, January 21, 2009.
  24. ^ news services, Feb 17, 2009,
  25. ^ Dr Walid Phares interview to Venkatesan Vembu, Daily News & Analysis, March 1, 2009,
  26. ^ a b Ali, Zulfiqar; Laura King (2009-02-17). "Pakistan officials allow Sharia in volatile region". Los Angeles Times.,0,6631935.story. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  27. ^ BBC News - Pakistan agrees Sharia law deal
  28. ^ Toosi, Nahal (2009-02-15). "Taliban to cease fire in Pakistan's Swat Valley". Yahoo News. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  29. ^ "Pakistan Blasted for Creating Taliban Safe Haven With Islamic Law Deal". Fox News. 2009-02-17.,2933,494446,00.html. Retrieved 2009-02-18. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^

External links

Coordinates: 35°23′N 72°11′E / 35.383°N 72.183°E / 35.383; 72.183

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