Time and again, humans have been known to inflict immeasurable amounts of pain onto others, and it saddens the heart to hear fresh stories and events of extremist activities which disrupts the peace of a community. Terror spreads like wildfire in the minds of individuals after such stories are broadcasted. Nonetheless, it is essential to highlight the occurrences of societal unrest for awareness so that possible solutions may emerge.
An extremely tragic incident undertook in Swat on December 11, 2019. Feroz Shah, an advocate with an affiliation to the political party of PML-N was shot dead on returning home from a masjid after offering his Maghreb prayers. This man a prominent figure; an ex-president of Swat Bar Association.
This incident highlights a crucial issue awaiting prominent discussions. It is true that the lives of lawyers in Swat, Pakistan are in imminent danger. Members practicing this profession have repeatedly been pinpointed as a recipient of violence by a specific group of people. The attack mentioned above is an example used to shed light on the issue, as it indicates the bold intentions of the cruel attackers. Various published and unreported cases include lawyers getting killed by the hands of terrorists.
There is no acceptable reason for this sort of terrorism even though the group of murderers try to present justifications for their actions. The highly credible degrees and expertise of the lawyers prove to be all for naught as many retire from their careers in order to protect their families and their own lives. This occupation and the entire judicial system remains in jeopardy in Swat. Each passing day results in another lawyer receiving threats and being harassed, before being violently attacked. It is a pity how such innocent people and families must live in constant fear in their own home town. Further examples of such incidents include Muhammad Hussain of Kabal village and Saeed Khan of Chakdara village who were murdered. Sometimes, murderous attempts result in lifelong disability; just how Perwanat Khan of Nawakelay village was fired upon during a lethal attack and became paralysed as a result.
Effective injection of such terror and fear has had some lawyers resorting to fleeing from the area in hopes of a well-protected life ahead. However, fleeing to other cities or countries does not promise a safe or content life. Due to the seriousness of the mentioned threats, the urgency of the escape plans becomes of utmost importance. Many a time, travelling by legal means becomes essentially impossible because of time consuming visa procedures and other formalities. Hence, such acts involve cases of human smuggling as these people voluntarily travel illegally to other countries for safety. Under the circumstance that the smuggled individuals reach their destination safely, only rarely do they practice law for a living. Most of the times, they must take up low end jobs, such as a taxi driver or a factory worker for survival. Their previous high standard of living is no longer supported financially.
Regardless, the families of these lawyers left back home are still troubled. In addition to experiencing the difficulties people face when a family member departs, they also receive the remaining disturbing threats and warnings. Wives and women of the families are forced to step out of their homes; to earn or even to carry out daily chores. They encounter major struggles due to the nature of our male dominated society which offers hardships and presents constraints for single women. Lawyers escaping to other countries carry the burden of physical stress paired with the mental stress regarding the well being of their families, whilst not being able to visit home.
Advocate Muhammad Ashfaq who is President of Swat Bar Association highlighted such unfortunate lawyers who were forced to escape include Adil Khan of Charbagh village. He was a practicing lawyer in Swat and fled to a European country due to terrorist activities in his hometown. However, albeit the efforts, he wasn’t able to get a citizenship of the country he fled to.
Another lawyer, named Advocate Altaf Khan belonging to Damghar village, escaped to Japan in hopes to spend the rest of his life safely. Ultimately, he returned back home due to a visa expiration and currently faces threats in Swat.
Advocate Ziauddin of Damghar village visited England to escape from various problems back home, but due to some legal constraints, is now unable to return home.
And last but not least, Advocate Khalid Khan of Koza Bandai village escaped a bomb blast enduring multiple injuries and fled to an European country for safety.
Sarim Burney Welfare Trust International is fully aware of this concerning issue existent in Swat. The legal aid team includes various lawyers at the agency; which is another strong reason for us to be connected to this issue. We believe it to be our duty as a humanitarian organisation to highlight these problems and support the rights of the lawyers in Swat. Every large and prominent platform must call attention to this emerging problem so that the conflict gets resolved before it escalates immensely.