His title inspired one of Edward Lears Nonsense Poems but the Wali of Swat has little to smile about now that his ancestral kingdom has become the battleground between the Taliban and the Pakistan army, forcing almost the entire population to flee. Miangul Aurangzeb, 80 and rather hard of hearing, would be the ruler of Swat had it not been brought under Pakistan rule in 1969 one of the last of the princely states to lose its autonomous status. The family retained the title, a few palaces and the affection of local people. Today, like most of them, he sits in exile, having fled when the army launched its operation at the beginning of the month to oust the Taliban. They [Taliban] have to be stopped, for its not just Swat theyre aiming at but the whole country, he said. Im very sad to see what has happened to my homeland and my people. Everyone I know is out. Not for him a tent on the baking plains but a large air-conditioned house in Islamabad surrounded by framed black and white photographs of himself or his family members with heads of state including the Queen and John F Kennedy. He talked of idyllic days spent fishing, trekking and river-rafting as he showed me old albums full of photographs of the mountains, rivers and lakes that gave Swat its reputation as the Switzerland of Pakistan. Now were known for Taliban rather than tourism, he said. Who is going to want to take a holiday in Swat? Among the pictures were those of the homes where he grew up the Summer Palace and the White Palace. Weve no idea what has happened to them, he said. The phones and electricity have been cut off and weve not been able to make contact for nine days. Aurangzeb is peeved that the government has not sought his advice. Swat was extremely well run under the rule of the Wali, he said. It was autocratic you couldnt call it democratic but it was better than democratic when you consider Pakistans experience of democracy. Education was a priority of his grandfather, who was known as the Akhund of Swat, before the title changed to Wali. He set up the first primary school in 1922 and the first girls school in 1926, sending his soldiers door to door to persuade parents to enrol their children. Many of the schools have been burnt down by the Taliban. Yet, the Wali says, he can understand why people initially supported the local Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, giving him money and jewellery. Fazlullah appealed to poor people who were fed up with corruption and the lack of justice, he said. Under the Walis rule, the area had its own justice system, over which he presided. It was our own kind of [Islamic law] coupled with local customs, he explained. There was no cutting off of hands or amputations but cases were decided at once. It was fast and effective. When Swat became part of Pakistan we lost all that. Local people were forced to use the Pakistani courts which are notoriously slow and corrupt. Fazlullah made Islamic law his rallying cry. He attracted tens of thousands to his public rallies in support. Aurangzeb blames the West and General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistans former president, for the rise of the Taliban. His own ancestors always fought foreign occupiers, including a British expeditionary force in 1897 that was accompanied by a young Winston Churchill. He believes Swat is paying the price for the West sending its forces into Afghanistan. When Musharraf decided to give full backing to the Americans to defeat the Taliban it was a stab in the back and they were bound to take revenge. We Pashtuns are very revengeful people. He believes Musharraf deliberately turned a blind eye to the spread of the Taliban to frighten the West into supporting him. What happened in Swat could have been sorted out by two policemen if they had wanted to three years ago, he said. He is critical, too, of Musharrafs successor, President Asif Ali Zardari, whose government entered into a peace deal with the Taliban last month. You dont deal with bandits, he said. It was doomed from the very beginning. With that the Wali of Swat unplugged his hearing aid and returned to the photographs of the peaceful valleys that now resound with gunfire.