Faiza Khan is my metaphor for Swat’s future. And if I am right, turning Swat around post-military operation should not be difficult.
I was standing in the open quad of the Government High School for Girls in Mingora, my crew setting up cameras for the shoot there, and I could see girls peering through the windows of the classrooms all around. Getting there was not easy. I had to earlier meet with the district’s education officer to get his permission. There were two problems: schools have armed police guards throughout the area and, in this particular case, cultural sensitivities were involved.
“You cannot move freely,” the principal told my producer, a young woman who was my only hope to get through the cultural shackles. With the weight of the education officer’s permission behind me and a lot of persuasion, I was told I would get limited access to a group but only after the girls had themselves covered properly. They were told to stay inside the classrooms while we set up the cameras, and yes, to keep their heads down.
Curiosity and their vigour to challenge the principal’s order came to my rescue. I could see them looking out, faces uncovered and exhibiting the artless freedom that comes natural to young women. And then one of the doors opened; I heard giggles; some girls were trying to push another out of the classroom.