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Swat locals frustrated over govt's apathy after Army offensive

November 14, 2010 - Drushkhela

The absence of virtually any follow-through by the government after Pakistan military declared the Swat Valley cleared of the Taliban last year has turned the locals' hope into despair.

Throughout the valley, tens of thousands of students are sheltered by broken-down walls and flimsy tents supplied mostly by international aid groups, as the government has yet to rebuild even one of the over 150 schools razed by the Taliban, reports The New York Times.

Running water, electricity and school supplies are widely absent, and the unprecedented floods that ravaged the country this summer have only compounded the hardships in Swat.

The lack of any visible progress has fed the frustrations of local people and international donors over the government's incompetence and corruption.

"In the minds of these little kids, the frustration against our own government is developing, and against the West is developing," said Esanullah Khan, a landlord in Swat who advises the army and aid organizations on rebuilding schools. "They'll go into Talibanization or miscreants because that is their only option left. What do they have to lose?"

"And who is the one to blame?" he said, parroting the students' reasoning: "It's the United States of America."

However, Pakistani officials defend themselves, arguing that hiring engineers and architects to ensure that schools would be safe from earthquakes was a time-consuming process that was delayed two months by the floods.

"The focus has shifted," admitted Shakeel Qadir, the director general of the Provincial Relief, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority, a government agency set up last year to "speed and ease" the rehabilitation of areas swept by fighting.

Foreign government officials are reluctant to give money due to lack of transparency in the utilisation of funds. It is noteworthy that Transparency International has listed the provincial government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa- where Swat is located- as the most corrupt provincial administration in the country.

"Donors need clarity," said one foreign official who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding, "It's unfortunate, but that's where we are."


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