Ali Khan, 42, is probably the only taxi (cab) driver in the Serene Swat Valley who has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science. The father of three, Khan had been a truck driver in Saudi Arabia too for a few years. He was one of those few people who did not leave Swat when the Pakistan army launched an operation in 2009 to flush out the Taliban. He was nursing his father, a cancer patient.
The same year, the soft-spoken Khan was kidnapped by the Taliban who took him to their headquarters in Gat Peuchar, east of Matta (a town near Mingora, the valley’s largest city) in Swat. “One afternoon in January 2009, when I drove to the New Road in Mingora my way was blocked by two cars full of Taliban activists.” Taken for a government employee, the Taliban blinded-folded him and drove him away. “When I was let open my eyes I found myself in Gat Peuchar.”
Though all the Taliban activists and their leaders had covered their faces, but their leaders were unusually taller than the average Swatis. “They avoided talking in my presence lest I would recognize them.”
Khan would witness Taliban activists sharpening their daggers and “threatening me with slaughtering the next hour.” When Khan would question their motives behind the façade of Islamic Sharia, they would beat him to the pulp until he would go unconscious.
“One day they beat me to almost death for arguing with them about their understanding of Islam and Sharia.”
The Taliban would bring people blindfolded to the Markaz, beat some of them and kill others. “It was shocking to hear the screams of those being killed. Appalling was the scene when both the killed and the killers shouted ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ (God is the Greatest!).”
For Khan, each single day seemed like a year. “They would celebrate the beheading of policemen, soldiers and other government officials.”
“On my 15th day of abduction a couple of taller Taliban came and asked the others about my identity.” They were told Khan was a government official. “I implored the taller men that I was actually a taxi driver, and they got convinced.” They asked the Taliban gunmen to take Khan to the place wherefrom he had been picked. “They blindfolded me, tied my legs and hands and drove me for two hours.” Finally, Khan was dumped in a crop field in the suburbs of Mingora city. “It was a chilly January night and I was lying in the field for the entire night.” In the morning an elderly woman spotted him, untied his hands and feet and took him to her house for a cup of tea.
“Then they took me to the hospital where I was given emergency treatment.”
After his 15 days of ordeal, Khan prefers “hell than to be ruled by these brutes.”
“I am fond of Pashto music and poetry and the Taliban want to eradicate these. I even did not smash music CDs that I have in my cars even when the Taliban had sown terror in everybody’s heart.”