SPECIAL: Imran Targets Pashtuns

Manzoor Pashteen

Pak government has been suppressing Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) for long and arrests its activists quite often on some fraudulent charges.  Hundreds of their activists have gone missing for demanding Pashtun rights …. Writes Rifan Ahmed Khan

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The Pashtuns who pursue the secular and nationalist ideals of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan are being suppressed and slapped with sedition charge in the present-day Pakistan.

Following the same past policies of successive governments, the Imran Khan Government has been detaining activists of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). The body derives its inspiration from the “Frontier Gandhi” and rejects and denies any role in militancy and terrorism.

For now, relief has come from the Islamabad High Court that on February 3, 2019 granted post-arrest bail to 23 activists belonging to PTM and Awami Workers Party (AWP). They had been detained for protesting against the arrest of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.

Releasing them, Islamabad High Court Chief Justice, Athar Minallah asked of the police:  “How could you question someone’s patriotism?”

The court in its written order noted that, “A plain reading of the FIR shows that the offences mentioned therein are, prima facie, not attracted. There is also no material on the record in support of the assertions made in the FIR.”

The court ruled that the Additional Sessions Magistrate who had denied them bail and had made observations on their being involved in terrorism, had “exceeded its brief.”

Castigating the police, the court said: “We did not expect this of your government. You are the representative of the state here, it is the state’s job to protect its people.” The judge told the deputy commissioner: “the government should admit if they are in the wrong.”

The PTM says the Pashtuns have been manipulated in the past in the name of religion. Their area, the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a legacy of the British era, was used to recruit fighters for fighting the Soviet-backed regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

The PTM is a human rights body formed in 2014. But it is being meted out the same treatment as the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Taliban (PTT) that was formed in 2007 to overthrow the Pakistani State, and the consequent imposition of Sharia rule.

Pak government has been suppressing PTM for long and arrests its activists quite often on some fraudulent charges.  Hundreds of their activists have gone missing for demanding Pashtun rights.  Lastly, Alamgir Wazir (nephew of Ali Wazir, MNA) is missing for past two months, and could have attained the same fate as other PTM activists for raising voice for Pashtuns and ill treatment by state authorities.

Following a prolonged campaign by then Army Chief, Gen, Raheel Sharif, the PTT was weakened. However, the PTM leaders say that the Army continues to nurture assorted groups in the region to cause trouble in neighbouring Afghanistan and to suppress secular Pashtuns who want to keep their activity away from religion-driven politics.

Writing in Dawn newspaper, Nadeem F. Paracha (February 2, 2019) states that areas of FATA in particular, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in general, “were unceasingly impacted by the tumultuous fallout of the anti-Soviet insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan in the 1980s. The insurgency, bankrolled by the US and Saudi Arabia and directly facilitated by Pakistan, was promoted as a ‘jihad’.

According to Paracha, “PTM is, in fact, a contemporary version of classical Pashtun nationalism. This nationalism was overshadowed by the rise of political Islam and then militancy among various Pashtun tribes during the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan.”

“PTM claims that ‘state-backed’ religious militancy was used to neutralise Pashtun nationalism and replace it with a narrative that explained this nationalism in the context of Islam. This, PTM believes, diverted the core intent of Pashtun nationalism (i.e., gaining Pashtun rights), and made it to mean a way to strive for an Islamic state, or something the state during the Gen Zia dictatorship too was claiming to formulate.”

“Although still opposed to the classical idea of Pashtun nationalism, the state is now equally opposed to the militant religious dimension that was added to it from the 1980s onwards.”

This explains the continuing suppression of the Pashtuns by the State that wants to ‘manipulate’ the poor tribals for its nefarious designs.



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