Islamabad, Apr.4 (ANI): Pakistan's armed forces appear to have thrown in the towel in so far as dealing with the Taliban in the country's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and particularly in the Swat Valley is concerned, while the government seems to be in limbo and a bystander to what is going on there.
"I know that the federal and provincial governments are innocent victims and bystanders. The military has handed over the ownership and refuses to fight," claims human rights activist Samar Minallah.
Expressing her outrage over a video showing a female teenager being flogged 34 times by a Taliban commander, Minallah says she distributed the video to local news outlets after someone from Swat sent it to her three days ago.
The video shows the teen screaming, pleading for a reprieve and writhing in pain. Paying no heed, the Taliban commander orders those holding her to tighten their grip and continues the public flogging.
A large group of men quietly stands and watches in a circle around her.
The woman in the video is a 17-year-old resident of Kabal, in the restive Swat region. The images, which have been broadcast repeatedly by private television news networks in Pakistan, have caused outrage here and set off bitter condemnation by rights activists and politicians.
They have also raised questions once again about the government's decision to enter into a peace deal in February that effectively ceded Swat to the Taliban and allowed them to impose Islamic law.
The two-minute video is the first known case of a public flogging of a woman in Swat. It demonstrates vividly how the Taliban have used public displays of punishment to terrify and control the local population.
It was not clear what the young woman was accused of.
One account said she had stepped out of her house without being escorted by a male family member, the New York Times quotes Minallah, as saying.
Another account said a local Taliban commander had falsely accused the teenager of violating Islamic law after she refused to accept his marriage proposal.
A Taliban spokesman defended the punishment to the Geo Television Network but said it should not have been done in public.
Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of North-West Frontier Province, where Swat is located, also tried to play down the flogging by claiming that the video was recorded in January, before the peace agreement. He called it an attempt to sabotage the peace agreement.
Not many seemed willing to countenance the argument.
"This is absurd," Athar Minallah, a lawyer who campaigned for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, said in a telephone interview.
"No one can give justification for such an act. These handful of people have taken the population hostage, and the government is trying to patronize them. If the state surrenders, what will happen next?"
Asma Jahangir, one of the country's leading rights activists, condemned the flogging as "intolerable."
"This is an eye-opener," she said in a televised news briefing in Lahore.
"Terrorism has seeped into every corner of the country. It is time that every patriotic Pakistani should raise a voice against such atrocities," she said, adding that she would join other rights activists and citizens in a rally against terrorism on Saturday in Lahore, where militants stormed a police academy this week.
Jugnu Mohsin, a peace activist and publisher of Friday Times, the country's most popular weekly newspaper, blamed the military for allowing the Taliban to gain strength and giving the militants a free hand to commit such atrocities.
Mohsin said she had received threats from Islamic extremists.
Taking notice of the video, Chief Justice Chaudhry has formed an eight-judge panel in the Supreme Court to examine the case, a news release by the Pakistani court said.
The justice ordered the interior secretary to bring the young woman before the court on Monday.
Former information minister Sherry Rehman demanded immediate action by the government. (ANI)