After months of conflict in Swat that saw more than two million people displaced in Pakistan’s worst humanitarian crisis, residents are cautiously making their way back after being told to go home.
Military operations continue and the peace is far from easy. As heavy shelling continues on an almost nightly basis, pockets of Taliban still litter the valley and there is an ever-present sense of unease.
Finding their homes looted or in ruins and their lives devastated, much of the civilian population of Swat have come back to the once idyllic valley with just a few meager possessions; their life savings eroded during the bitter escape from the Taliban. Businesses have not been allowed to re-open, the crops in the fertile fields and orchards remain unharvested and curfews have supplanted the once gentle pattern of rural life. Tales of beheadings, murder and kidnappings abound. While fear overshadows the heavy military presence, the sentiment for now is simply “We pray that they do not come back”.