Residents of Pakistan’s Swat Valley are readjusting to life after the end of Taliban rule, nearly three months after Pakistan retook the area with a military offensive.
Under Taliban rule, barbers were banned from shaving off beards. As a Worldfocus contributor writes, that rule is no longer in effect — but having a beard is still not a matter of choice.
Phyza Jameel is a Pakistani journalist and the bureau chief of CNBC-Pakistan in Lahore, writing at the “Frontline Blog.”
“He has an appointment with you; he has come from Swat,” my assistant informed me. I was confused; I had a meeting scheduled with Sarmad Behzaad, one of my dedicated news sources from the Swat region.
“Send him in,” I told my assistant. He sat down and started with the usual polite greetings in the Swati Urdu accent. This was Sarmad. “My God,” I said, “You look so different.”
I had met Sarmad some six months back. Then, a cluster of thick hair hung on his face, a beard from which it was difficult to locate his mouth and nose. “How did this happen?” I asked.
Sarmad smirked and said, “We had been forced to grow beards because of the strong Taliban influence. All the barbershops were closed and clean-shaven men were intimidated by them, so we all had to grow beards.”
“Did you shave when the Taliban left?” I asked.
“No, it wasn’t that the Taliban went away and we shaved — actually we were now used to it — but recently, having a beard has become more of a problem. Now that the security forces have taken control, they are suspecting every bearded man as being part of the Taliban. It was so much hassle that I had to let it go.”
Back in the spring, Swat was one of the most affluent places of the entire northern region. Since it was a popular tourist destination, the people had more interaction and in general were more cosmopolitan.
People in Swat were more advanced in terms of education and business. But during the time of Taliban control, the people of Swat had to obey absurd regulations in the name of Islam. Taliban banned men from wearing pants as well as from shaving their beard and moustache. Barbershops were closed and barbers were threatened and ordered not to shave any man labelling it as “haraam.”
According to Sarmad, during the Taliban period it was hard to find any clean-shaven men. Since the military operation has been completed, 80 percent of the men are now clean-shaven in Swat and the surrounding area.
As Sarmad states, “ To keep a beard or not to keep beard — it’s not a personal choice in Swat; it’s directly related to the ruling agenda in the region.”
To read more, see the original post.
The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.