Pak immigrants in US threatened by Taliban operating back home

February 17th, 2009 - 3:28 pm ICT by ANI  


New York, Feb 17 (ANI): Pakistani immigrants from the Swat Valley living in the United States say some of their families are being singled out for threats, kidnapping and even murder by Taliban forces, who view them as potential American collaborators and lucrative sources of ransom.

Some immigrants also say they, too, have been threatened in the United States by the Taliban or its sympathizers, and some immigrants say they have been attacked or kidnapped when they have returned home, the New York Times reported.

The threats have brought an added dimension of suffering for the immigrants, who say fresh reports of hardship arrive here every day, sometimes several times a day, and spread quickly among the several thousand Swati immigrants in the New York region.

Its 24/7, said Zakrya Khan, 30, the owner of two gyro restaurants in New York whose staff of 15 is almost entirely Swati. This is their only concern now.

Swati immigrants say they have been left with the sense that the more they try to help their families back home, the more harm they may do, an excruciating dilemma that has filled many with a combination of helplessness, fear, sadness and guilt.

If they speak out, they fear, it could lead to retribution for them or their relatives in Pakistan. Some exiles who have participated in anti-Taliban political demonstrations here or agitated in support of Swat residents say that they and their families have come under pressure as a result of these activities, the paper reported.

And few dare leave the United States for fear of losing the single largest income stream their families have.

The Pakistan government announced on Monday that it had struck a tentative deal with the Taliban amid a 10-day ceasefire to establish Sharia in the region and suspend military operations there, but some Swati immigrants said they were skeptical about the deal and they were bracing for a resumption of violence.

Iqbal Ali Khan, 50, the general secretary of the American chapter of the Awami National Party, a dominant secular political party in Swat, said he had received three threatening phone calls in the past two months, the NYT reported.

The callers, who did not identify themselves, told Mr. Khan he was too active and ordered him to bring one million dollars with him on his next trip to Pakistan.

Swatis generally live within the larger Pakistani population, which is concentrated in Coney Island, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens, among other neighborhoods.

Many Swatis here suspect that the Taliban have spies among them; that insecurity mirrors the rampant mistrust in the valley, where many residents fear the Pakistani security forces almost as much as the Taliban and do not know whom to trust. (ANI)

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