The district of Swat in the north-west of Pakistan has been the focus of world attention for the past several months. There was armed insurgency coupled with the call for jihad and imposition of the 'Shariat system' in the area. Educational institutions, particularly the girls' schools were targeted and the accompanying unrest forced a large number of Swatis to flee their homes in search of safety. Has Swat been like this in the past? The search for an answer led me to libraries and archives and the most definitive work that I came across has been the recently published research by Dr Sultan-i-Rome on the state and society of Swat under the Walis from 1915 to 1969. This is not the first time that the call for jihad has been issued in this area. After Turkey's entry into the World War I against the British, the cry of 'Islam in danger' was raised in Swat and Buner by Haji Sahib of Turangzai. The other two religious figures, who tried to mobilise the masses for jihad against the British colonists were Sartor Faqir and Sandakai Baba. Like the present day, when the Government of Pakistan points towards the involvement of foreign hand to radicalise and militarise the people, there was evidence of 'German Mission' and 'Turkish Mission' instigating the native fanatics and training them how to make bombs at the time of World War I. In 1917, Afghanistan sent money through Maulana Taj Muhammad 'to work up Bajaur, Swat and the Indus Valley tribes'. The only difference is, that the call of jihad was issued against the alien British rule whereas the present stir up was against our own state. That was the reason why Abdul Wadud, the first Wali, on realising the potential of trouble making banished all religious mendicants from the Swat state. Similarly, some people think that the demand for the imposition of the Islamic Shariat in Swat was first made by Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the head of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM). Historically, this assertion is incorrect. In 1949, Sirajuddin Khan, who was a tehsildar in Swat and the son of Sherzada Khan of Mingora, who in turn was a close associate of the Wali, presented a memorandum to the second Wali, Miangul Jahanzeb demanding enforcement of Shariat in the princely state of Swat. Sirajuddin was, in fact, a 'staunch Maududi'. Being deeply influenced by the thought of Maulana Syed Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of Jamat-i-Islami, he argued: "The princely states were a blot on the country's name after the emergence of Pakistan, which could only be removed either by introducing democracy or by enforcing the Islamic system in Swat. Democracy would not work, as the masses were illiterate, so the Islamic system was the answer, for both the ruler and the ruled alike." Not only that his proposal was rejected but the Wali also dismissed him from the service. The second person who proposed in June 1971 that Shariat was "the only solution to the problems of Swat and in consonance with the people's mood" was a leader of the Swat Liberation Movement named Dani Gul. Study of humankind's journey towards civilisation shows that rules and regulations are devised for social organisation of the society where conflicts are resolved peacefully by laws and not by the brutal use of force. Actually this trait distinguishes a civilised person from a brute. Coming to Swat, President Ayub once observed: "Disputes, both civil and criminal, were decided purely according to Quran and Sharia and .... Badshah Sahib (the Wali) and the Qazis under him administered an ideal type of Islamic justice." Dr Sultan-i-Rome rejects this statement as inaccurate. It is true that the Wali, Miangul Abdul Wadud had appointed Qazis all over the state with the chief Qazi at the top to decide criminal cases in one or two hearings to ensure cheap and speedy justice. This is also true that Munsifs were appointed under a separate department of Mehkama-i-Munsifan to look into cases related only to land and things and could either give judgement or report the dispute to the Wali or his heir-apparent but interestingly, contrary to the commonly held belief 'that the Shariat was the supreme law and that all people were bound to follow and decide their cases only in the Qazi courts' is not entirely true because the Wali of Swat is on the record to have said that "who ever so willed could have his suit decided according to the Sharia" or according to "a copy of the laws agreed upon by the people of the area was kept in every Tehsil; and all were free to opt between the Islamic and the regional codes for the decision of their cases." Moreover, often, appeals were filed to the Wali against the decisions of the Qazis and in several cases the Qazis were required by the ruler to revise their judgements already given under the Shariat. Dr Sultan-i-Rome emphasised: "The Qazi courts were subservient to the administrative and judicial officers, and the Islamic laws to the regional codes of conduct, with both being subordinate to the ruler." Consequently, several criminal acts were punished according to a printed decree of the second Wali, Miangul Jahanzeb. For example, a fine of rupees two hundred each was levied for firing and burglary and in the case of sodomy, only the sodomite was liable to this fine whereas for teasing a woman the penalty was rupees one hundred and in the cases of adultery, only the male was fined rupees five hundred. In addition, if anyone cut off the nose of his wife, not only that he had to pay a fine of rupees two thousand but had also to divorce his wife. And in the case of murders which were about twenty-two in a year throughout the Swat state, the Wali himself stated: "Out of 22 murders, 3 were punished, that was enough. The rest of them were put in prison for 7 years, 10 years, or were fined heavily." At the same time, the dispensation of justice was swift and the litigation was simple. According to Wali Abdul Wadud, suits could be filed on stamp papers valued at one anna (six paisas) whereas Abdul Ghafoor Qasmi appends in the History of Swat that "not a single penny is spent by the litigants on civil or criminal suits." Yet another issue confronting present-day Swat is the militarisation of its people. It is proverbially said that a Pukhtun loves "his new rifle and old wife." Over the years, possession of arms has emerged as a symbol of honour for the Pukhtuns but it goes to the credit of the first Wali that without any significant opposition or bloodshed, he controlled and regularised the possession of arms whereby some were disarmed while the others could keep only the licensed weapons. He achieved this by convening a jirga whereby in lieu of the guarantee of protection of their lives and properties by the state militia and police, the Khans and Maliks agreed to surrender their arms to the state. So, with a little imagination, persuasion and assurance, the people were disarmed. Lastly, is it not an irony of history that the schools bombed, lately in Swat, were actually built by the Swatis themselves, few decades ago. Although the Wali could not read or write himself, he established first primary school imparting Western education in 1922 and sent his soldiers from door to door to prevail upon parents to educate their children. The people responded positively by providing their land free of cost to the state for building schools and playgrounds. Moreover, the manual work during construction was done by the Swatis and the militiamen. The female education was also not neglected. The first girls' school was established in 1926 and in those areas where all girls institutions could not be set, co-education was practised. Factually speaking, neither the education was compulsory nor free for the whole population as the educational expenditure was shared by the state and the masses in the form of a levy of eight annas per house with the consent of the natives, however, the poor students were not only exempt from the fee but the state also provided them books and uniform. Isn't it a pity that Swat remained a model of peace and tranquillity under an autocrat ruler but has lapsed into anarchy under the modern state system? If one man could use his imagination and authority to introduce modern education and disarm the whole population why couldn't the Pakistani state achieve these objectives? The people cannot be blamed for the ongoing travails because they look for guidance towards the traditional sources of authority i.e. the Maliks/Khans and the religious leaders. There is a need on the part of the state to take them into confidence and agree upon a plan of action to bring life back to normalcy. More than anything, the Pakistani state owes this to the people of Swat. E-mail: