David Montero ’98 has been nominated for an Emmy for “Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story in a News Magazine.” The nomination recognizes his Frontline documentary titled “Pakistan: State of Emergency,” which explores the volatile Swat Valley.
At the foot of the Himalayas in the border area with Afghanistan, the Swat Valley is an impoverished area that has provided a fertile ground for conflict between Taliban forces and Pakistani troops.
In a Frontline interview, Montero said, “I first went to Swat in May 2007. Maulana Fazlullah, a radical cleric in the valley, had begun to become a problem for the Pakistani government. All the newspapers were writing about him. Editorials were coming out in the press about him because he was preaching a very extremist version of Islam. He was telling parents over a pirated radio station that they should not send their girls to school. He was telling people in his town that they should not be vaccinated against polio because the vaccination was a conspiracy concocted by the West to make young men impotent—outlandish things like this. I realized he was becoming a new face of the Pakistani Taliban—an extremist, an incredibly ignorant and dogmatic thinker, but nonetheless someone with a huge following. He had a following of about 15,000 people at that time.
“After I met with Fazlullah, I continued to follow his story as he became more and more of an extremist. He started taking over towns in Swat Valley. He started arresting people and flogging them in public. He started setting up his own checkpoints and created a parallel system of government in his area. It was clear that he was becoming a headache that the government was going to have to deal with. [The situation] was going to explode.”
Montero is a foreign correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and Frontline/World. He has covered religion politics, and extremism from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, also writing for the New York Times, the Nation, and others. He was awarded the South Asian Journalist Association’s (SAJA) Daniel Pearl Award for outstanding reporting about South Asia.