Friday, July 26, 2013

S2L77: Partying Among the Taliban

From 1977 03 17 Pakistan

That photo above was taken in Pakistan, in the heart of Taliban country. Obviously, it demands explanation (and probably my apology). After the jump, I take my share of responsibility for the whole bloody mess that whole part of the world has become.



The mountainous Swat River valley of Pakistan may have been given the name Paradise on Earth because of its natural beauty, but its more recent history is much more troubled. Osama bin Laden took refuge in the Swat valley in 2002 after being driven from Afghanistan. It made a good hideout. Mountainous, about 100 miles long, running parallel to the Afghan border, it's a base for Islamist militants. It's one valley over from Abbottabad, where Osama bin Laden was finally tracked down and killed.

By the mid-2000s, Islamist militants had seized control of the Swat valley and imposed shariah law, leading to a series of military operations by the central government to regain control, control that is contested to this day. In 2012, in the Swat valley, schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by Taliban militants in retaliation for Malala's efforts to promote education for girls, making Malala an international news sensation. The U.N. declared July 12, her 16th birthday, as "Malala Day."

But all that bloody history was still in the future when I visited the Swat valley in 1977. Then, I was just a harmless, stupid American. Judge for yourself from these photos of a costume party that we thought was a good idea to hold in the heart of Taliban country (which we didn't know anything about at the time). There may have been a costume or two that, in hindsight, might have been considered insulting to the local mores, shall we say? Not that there was any incident at the time. It's just that I can imagine what the local Pakistanis who witnessed this must have thought. Whatever it was, they kept it to themselves. Anyway, in my nightmares today, I imagine it was this particular costume party that set in motion all the bitterness that Pakistani Islamist fundamentalists still hold against the West to this day. For the record, I was the only American at the party. The rest were Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, or Brits. Like that excuses anything. In any case, I still feel sheepish viewing these photos all these years later.

From 1977 03 17 Pakistan

From 1977 03 17 Pakistan

From 1977 03 17 Pakistan

From 1977 03 17 Pakistan

One of a continuing series.
Start: Around the World in 800 Days
Previous: Pakistan's Swat Valley
Next: Peshawar

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