Swat Valley in Pakistan has long been regarded as a plush area which attracts middle class people seeking to draw upon its natural beauty for relaxation. However, while attention has been focused on the turbulent tribal areas of the northwest, the Taliban have been cutting a swath through the valley and establishing control. Officials now estimate close to four-fifths of the region is now under Taliban control. Taliban commander Maulana Fazlullah has swept through the area beheading opponents, torching homes and schools as he enforces the strict religious beliefs of the Taliban. Muzzafar Ali and his family fled his farm as the Taliban entered their village. “They behead people, shoot people, destroy schools and hospitals.”
The police are intimidated by the violence of the Taliban and refuse to confront their forces. There are reports poor and unemployed people as well as disaffected young men are drawn to the Taliban which offers money and status. The army is struggling to contain the Taliban and has failed in efforts to raise a local militia.