To all intents and purposes, the Swat valley in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan has fallen to Taliban. The militants have already declared all girls' education shall cease by Jan.15.
Schools that teach girls have been ordered to close by that date or face the inevitable consequences - invariably they are blown. They have already blasted well over a hundred girls' schools; principally those operated by the government, but have moved in recent weeks to blow up private institutions as well.
Formal education of girls has long since been suspended in the troubled province. Apparently it is sputtering to a complete stop now.
Taliban operate at will, go where they like, issue orders and proclamations that none dare defy. The fanatics broadcast their message of obscurantism on the radio for all to hear - and obey.
Now the Taliban announcement shows that the government has lost the battle for Swat and the Taliban have won, Omar Ali, a noted observer writes. Yes, in the absence of any formal communiqué from any side, the firman on girls' schools could be taken to mean that the government forces have given up the once beautiful valley for good.
It used to be called the Switzerland of Pakistan. With high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes, it is a place of great natural beauty, and until recently a popular destination for tourists. It is all in ruins now.
The government is unable or unwilling to protect its own schools and is not going to lift a finger to protect those of the private sector. It gives the clear impression of having abandoned Swat and its people to whatever their fate may be.
People are being hurtled back to the dark ages. Those who can, flee. It is almost a ceaseless stream.
The notion that somehow the militants are our 'allies' runs as a strong and deep current through elements of the army and intelligence services, the bureaucracy and the politicians themselves.
There are powerful forces that provide tacit if not overt support to them, forces which would like to see the Taliban triumphant in the rest of Pakistan and not just Swat. The caliphate of Swat is becoming a reality before our eyes. Where next, despairs Omar Ali.