Why Pashtun Nationalism Is Considered A Major Fault Line in Pakistan? Glimpses Of History (Part IV) – OpEd


In the line of Pashtoon nonviolent uprisings in the 20th century by Bacha Khan and Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai already discussed in the previous articles against the atrocities and suppressive policies inflected upon Pashtoon population by colonial power and particularly Pakistani establishment after creation of Pakistan, the emergence of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement is a new phenomenon of 21st century in that continuity. Though the movement is nonviolent inspired by the past none violent struggles but initially it sparked by the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, since it began its long march to Islamabad in the beginning, calling for the demining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, the rights-based alliance has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for its practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation commission.

The ‘Pashtun Renaissance’ started under the very young, enthusiastic and charismatic leadership of Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen and its co-founders, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar who hails from the so-called tribal area of Waziristan. The history of the area goes farther back than 9/11 and that is why it was created as a ‘safe haven’ for global terrorists by the ‘deep state’.Despite being ignored by the mainstream media, PTM is drawing huge crowds of young and old Pashtoon population throughout the country particularly in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, tribal areas (former FATA) Baluchistan province and Karachi city. The movement is positioning itself as a platform to protect the rights and lives of the Pashtoon from what it considers are elements from within and outside the state bent on demonizing and excluding the Pashtun population in Pakistan.

For the first time in the history of this state, the PTM challenged the steel frame of militarized status quo not for seeking power or share in power bounty, contrary to traditional political parties but for just rights of Pashtoon with in the constitutional boundaries and enforcing the social contract in letter and spirit. The problem with the state within a state is how to cope with this new extra ordinary political phenomenon that, so far, has no Achilles heel. The leadership of the movement carries no bag of the past except the heart wrenching narratives of widespread destruction and humiliation they faced in their home towns erstwhile tribal areas due to terrorism and counter terrorism military operations particularly, “Radd-ul Fasaad” and Zarb-e-Azb”. The establishment could not intimidate them with the usual carrot and stick policy. Their high moral ground flowing from their legitimate cause has across the board acceptability in the oppressed Pashtoon population. Even all political parties and installed civilian government is carefully choosing its words while speaking about the PTM. It is regrettable that, barring some initial steps to address their concerns, the response to the PTM by the state apparatus and mainstream political classes at both federal and provincial levels has largely been paranoid and counterproductive. Despite taking remedial measures to address the demands of PTM, the Pashtoon anywhere are seen as a threat and need to be monitored as terror suspects. Both, Punjab and Sindh started profiling Pukhtoons. Students were refused hostels in universities. Pukhtoons staying in hotels or private accommodations had to report to the nearest police station. Police circulated instructions for keeping an eye on them and any new Pashtun face was to be reported. Thousands of Pashtun were – and are still – under surveillance and, whenever required, eliminated in extrajudicial encounters, branding them as terrorists.

Are the demands of PTM in line with constitution?

The demands of the PTM are very few and simple.

1) They ask for their area to be cleared of landmines; planted by Pakistani security forces during a military operation against the Taliban across FATA, which claimed the lives of a number of civilians.

2) to produce in courts of law persons made forcibly missing; 

3) for a life of dignity; they ask not to be collectively punished for crimes not committed by them, abandoning ‘collective punishment’ of tribes in FATA when terrorist activity is detected. When incidents occurred in FATA, security forces surrounded that area and punished the entire locality where the incident happened.

4) Creating a judicial commission to investigate extra-judicial killings and examine the thousands of Pashtun disappearances 

5) the killers of Naqeebullah Mehsud particularly Rao Anwar former police officer, to be brought to justice.

6) Abolition of the Watan Card, a special identity card (not a national identity card) issued by the military personnel deployed in the locality. It is required for locals to move freely to and from their areas and homes.

7) Putting a stop to security forces humiliating Pashtun tribesmen at check posts.

8) withdrawal of all cases against Ali wazir MNA from FATA and his release from jail in connection with an FIR registered against him under Sections 120 (concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc.), 121 (waging or attempting to wage war or abetting waging of war against Pakistan), 121-A (conspiracy to commit offences punishable by Section 121) and 124-A (sedition) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 5 of the Loud Speaker Act on behalf of the state.

9) establishment of truth and reconciliation commission to probe into exta judicial killings, missing persons, terrorist activities in the area and fix responsibilities etc.

10. Reconstruction, rehabilitation and compensation of houses and shops damaged or destroyed during operations in the area 

11) withdrawal of security forces from mines and mineral in the tribal areas and allow people free access to their forests and mining

The PTM’s first demand is according to article 10, security of person: ‘No person shall be deprived of life or liberty, save in accordance with law’. The second and fourth demands are according to article 10 and 10 A, safeguard to arrest and detention and right to fair trial: ‘No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds for such arrest’.“Every person who is arrested and detained in custody shall be produced before a magistrate within twenty-four hours of such arrest, and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond the said period without the authority of a magistrate”. “For the determination of his civil rights and obligations or in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process”. Third demand is according to article 14; Inviolability of dignity of men. ‘The dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of the home, shall be inviolable’.

The demands of the PTM are very much constitutional; there is nothing negative about it. Then why are its protests dubbed as ‘engineered’ and its leader, Manzoor Pashteen, as ‘agent of RAW and NDS’, and Ali Wazir setting MNA has been kept in jail for last two years, even his production orders are denied by the speakers of both National Assemblies of Imran Khan’s and the present PDM government. Everyone is tempted to ask?

When Pakistan’s Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) highlighted the plight of their people living in the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) and in the other parts of country and gained momentum in the youth chanting following famous slogans against the security forces: 

“ye jo dehshatgardi hai, iske peechewardi hai” (Those in uniform are behind terrorism). “Ye jo namaloom hey, ye hamen maloom hey” (We know all the unknown persons) (We know your unknown). “Lar aw bar yo Afghan” (Afghan both in Pakistan and Afghanistan are one). 
“Ye jo talib-gardi hey, esky peechy wardi he” (The uniform [military] is behind this Talibanization). “Da sanga azadi da, Pakhtun pa ki gharkegee” (what kind of freedom is this? Pashtuns are sinking in this). 

These are allthe electrifying melodies, driving participants into passion akin to frenzy at the gatherings of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). Its rhymes give expression to their miseries: destroyed houses, dead, disappeared and frustrated loved ones, uprooted communities, and unwelcomed neighborhoods. Demanding the state’s attention, Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen, the young leader of PTM, wants the ruling elite to pay heed to the suffering of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and enlarged Pashtoon population in the other parts of the country. His impassioned stories of lives being lost to landmines and families of missing persons languishing in pain have brought out one clear message: militants and the military are alike in destroying terrorism affected Pashtun communities.

Actually former FATA Society was well on its way to progress when it saw its ‘natural’ course of change and development rudely interrupted with the coming of thousands of foreign Mujahideen, establishing Jihadi Seminaries and recruitment of students of those religious institutions including locals by the US and Pakistan in the 1980s to fight a jihad against what was then the Soviet Union. The story of how the world abandoned the Mujahideen and Afghanistan, following the end of the Cold War is well known. But what is, perhaps, not known is that FATA too was abandoned, leaving it with a jihadi mindset, an abundance of cheap modern weapons and easy entry and exit of foreign Mujahideen. The weaponization of society and the presence of foreign extremist elements has dealt a serious blow to the tribal system. This in large part is responsible for the current imbroglio.

On the other hand, no serious efforts were ever made by the government to change the FCR, reduce poverty and give effective political representation, basic human rights and a mechanism to redress grievances to this marginalized region of Pakistan. By failing to fulfil its obligations, the state appears to have abandoned FATA to its fate. People in tribal agencies have suffered heavily for being consigned to the backwaters, ignored and exploited for jihadi activities. The resulting militancy has considerably weakened the tribal structure as well as the old system of governance that cannot be revived.

These slogans raised by PTM, gained the military’s top brass attention and considered it anti state movement supported by Indian RAW and NDS of Afghanistan. In this connection few instances are quoted as:

1) Lt General Nazir Ahmad Butt, the then corps commander Peshawar in a statement said that PTM’s “demands are genuine and we are ready to address all demands within the purview of the Constitution.” The military’s decision to hold a dialogue with the PTM, which was previously termed an “engineered movement” supported by Pakistan’s foes, is certainly surprising. While the choice of a dialogue is a prudent approach, considering the movement’s demands fall in the ambit of the country’s’ constitution, it remains unclear why Pakistan’s powerful military has decided to enter a dialogue with the group at this point.

2) Speaking at an investiture ceremony in Rawalpindi on April 12, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, in an obvious reference to the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), warned that ‘engineered protests’ will not be allowed to reverse the gains of counter-terrorism operations. The army chief may have had his reasons for labelling the PTM protests as ‘engineered’ and there may very well be evidence of the el

3) On 3rd May 2019, at press conference by former Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the Inter-Services Public Relations director general, now corps commander 12 corps Quetta, covered a lot of ground and addressed many questions. It also left behind some fresh questions. The most important concerns, according to the military spokesman was foreign funding for the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement and the idiom and style of the PTM at its protest demonstrations. The then ISPR chief mentioned several instances of PTM leaders receiving funds from hostile neighbors. He also said they had had several meetings with the enemy. He announced that law would take its course against PTM leaders who had been flouting it. He added that the law-abiding citizens of what had been the Federally Administered Tribal Areas would not be harmed. It appeared that the military or the government will approach a court of law to seek action against the PTM leaders and produce tangible evidence of their guilt. There was no ambiguity about the message as the general (twice) told the PTM, “Your time is up.” But that never happened due to reasons best known to military establishment.

(To be continued)

Sher Khan Bazai, the writer is retired from civil service as Secretary Education 

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