Sunday, 14 October 2012

Shah Khisro of Bara Durushkhela, Swat

By Kalim Khan, with some edits & additions by Hafsa

None of us is alien to the happenings in Swat [1], dubbed Switzerland of Asia for its natural beauty and picturesque landscape. The destruction caused by Taliban who challenged the writ of state & tyrannized locals and subsequent army operations to rout them, have been given coverage by the media. While there are innumerable accounts of tragedy and untold sufferings, there are also the stories of great resilience in the face of adversity and courage in the face of fear. The story of Shah Khisro Habib of the village Bara Durushkhella, martyred by Taliban at the young age of 31, is one such account of bravery. I’d recount the story here, as narrated by his friend Kalim Khan.

Shah Khisro was a very good friend of mine. His liveliness and wit endeared him to all who knew him. A school teacher by profession, his talents ranged from playing rubab to sports commentary for cricket matches hosted by our village. His outgoing persona was complimented by a profoundness that was reflected in his love for literature and poetry, Ghalib & Ghani Khan being two of his favorite poets. One of his abiding passions was cricket. He used to organize inter-village cricket tournaments in our district, for which he’d also do the commentary, often mimicking famous cricket commentators. Often during the match, while doing live commentary, he’d regale us by impersonating famous cricket commentors like Geoffrey Boycot, Tony Greig and Michel Holding, among others. He was equally popular among the young & old of the village and was loved by his students. He had a way with jokes that never failed to elicit laughs, no matter how banal the joke. Once he set us all laughing during a cricket match by announcing the arrival of a friend, who wouldn’t play cricket anymore, thus: “Oh Look! we’ve been blessed with the company of the legend of our times; The Don! I mean the Don Bradman, who has played 5000 matches for us and so far his highest score has been zero not out.”

In early 2008, TNSM started taking the administrative control of Swat and imposed their myopic and unforgiving interpretation of Islamic laws on the local population. Their FM radio broadcasts, initially used as a propaganda tool, had earned them supporters in every village. They’d beguiled the people, who had genuine grievances against a system that had failed to deliver (PATA regulations & absence of state institutions), into believing that TNSM was a solution to all their problems. Taliban (of TNSM) established a network of informants in every village in Swat and started targeting and eliminating those who offered any resistance to them. They’d abduct and/or kill at will and often carry out brutal executions. These tactics permeated an atmosphere of fear among the local populace. No one dared criticize them, not even in front of their own relatives and in the safety of their own homes. You never knew who’d turn out to be the informant. Everyone in the village was afraid. Everyone, but Shah Khisro, who openly questioned and condemned Taliban’s tactics of terrorizing people in the name of Islam. When advised by friends to exercise some caution and avoid criticizing Taliban, he’d reply, “By killing me they will kill one more person but if I stay silent, I might avoid Taliban brutality but my soul will die inside my body and I will rot”. His indomitable spirit wouldn’t be subdued and he continued to uphold the truth, condemning and exposing the Taliban. Then one fateful day, on October 17 2008, the bad news struck our village that Shah Khisro has been abducted by the Taliban. Three days after his abduction he was blessed with a daughter. His immediate family and friends were very concerned for his safety and started searching for him by contacting the local Taliban. After a while, they heard rumors that he had been transferred from the local Taliban prison to the Taliban headquarters in Ghat Peuchaar. His elder brother Jan Sher searched for him for several months and appealed in every Taliban court. But he was not given any news about Shah Khisro’s whereabouts. His mother, an elderly woman, tried to approach the wives of the Taliban commanders. She pleaded with them to tell her if Shah Khisro was alive, and if not, then she should at least have the body of her son. The only reply she got was that Bibi’an (the term normally used for the wives of Prophet Muhammad PBUH) are busy and she should come another day. People back at the village were hopeful that some day he might return alive from the Taliban prison. Once the military operation against Taliban started in Swat, the army captured some of the Taliban who were involved in Shah Khisro’s abduction. They confessed to his murder and said that eleven days after his abduction, that is on October 28, 2008, they shot and killed him. His dead body was finally recovered on March 28, 2009. For almost six months, his family kept searching for him, hoping he might still be alive. Hard to explain the agony of his old mother, his elder brother Jan Sher and his wife with a newborn baby at this loss. His daughter no longer has a father because of the cruelty of Taliban. People in the village say that Allah blessed Shah Khisro with the status of shaheed (martyr) as his body was fresh as a normal living human being. Later on, we found what had befallen Shah Khisro while he was in Taliban’s custody. We heard that he was taken to a Taliban court where he was tortured and beaten for his criticism of Taliban. He was told to mend his ways and to stop being vocal against Taliban to which he had replied, “I will say what is right and if you want me to stop then prove me wrong in a public debate with your chief Maulana Fazlullah”. This made his tormentors more furious and ultimately they shot him in the chest with a burst of AK-47.

He was my dear friend, who now appears in flowers and shines in stars.

Na wo Mansoor laiwanaye
Sae kho lidalee wo zaka kho pa daar oukhato

Translation: Mansoor was not crazy; He must have seen something or he wouldn’t have walked to the gallows

[1] "The Battle for Pakistan: Swat Valley" by Daud Khan Khattak, April 19 2010
[2] Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Wikipedia entry: (Accessed on Oct 14, 2012)
[3] Provincially Administered Tribal Areas, Wikipedia entry (Accessed on Oct 14, 2012)

The writer, Kalim Khan, belongs to Bara-Durushkhela in Swat
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