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Taliban flogging video may show different girl, but message is the same

The Taliban did beat Chand Bibi publicly, and whether or not her ordeal was the one shown in a notorious video, the footage awakened Pakistan to the extent of the militant group’s reach.

April 29, 2010|By Alex Rodriguez | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

In Kala Kalay, the Taliban was both reviled and feared. "They issued an order that everyone walking down the street had to keep their head lowered," said Khan, the mayor. If a militant had his eye on a young Swati woman, Khan said, "he'd simply approach family and say, ‘I'm taking this girl.' "

Once the video appeared on the Internet and on newscasts, Pakistanis took to the streets to call for military action in Swat.

"You had women policymakers cajoling the menfolk that something needed to be done," said Asma Jahangir, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "People were less willing to sit back and do nothing."

The Pakistani military mounted an all-out offensive against militants that routed the insurgency from the valley within nine weeks. Pockets of militants remain holed up in remote hillsides and woods, but refugees have returned, schools have reopened and for the most part everyday life in Swat has resumed.

The flogging video wasn't the only catalyst for the restoration of normality in Swat, but it played a crucial role, Farooq said. While there may be doubts about its veracity, the message pushed the right buttons.

"I don't think that the purpose was to deceive people," Farooq said. "The purpose was to show what was happening. OK, maybe it wasn't Chand Bibi. But it happened to a woman, and in a very undignified way."

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