Murtaza Shibli |
Manzoor Pashteen swears by his commitment and dedication to the cause of Pashtuns who have become victims of an endless war. In the CIA-instigated Afghan Jihad, they had a massive image makeover: from the British colonialists’ categorization as uncivilized brutes, they became celebrated warriors wedded to a holy cause fighting Communist Russia.
Even the Hollywood, that is closely linked to the US security agencies and their efforts to glamorize friends and demonize enemies, produced films like The Living Daylights, The Beast of War and Rambo III, casting the Afghan Mujahideen as superheroes and committed noble fighters while celebrating the Pashtun culture and its concepts of hospitality and honor.
If the words attributed to Wazir are true, this discredits the whole movement with the CIA footprints glaringly all over it. The American spy agency has engineered public demonstrations based on real grievances all over the world for strategic reasons.
In the post-9/11 policy shift, they were once again seen as depicted by the British colonialists – uncouth and uncivilized brutes. Additionally, to compliment the mood of the times, they were described as undemocratic and terrorists, only worthy of being treated with industrialized and wanton firepower. As a result, tens of thousands of Afghans, mainly Pashtuns, were bombed to smithereens even in unsuspecting places – from marriage parties to football matches. True, while most of these genocidal massacres were unreported and brushed aside with indifference as collateral damage, occasionally and for the few lucky ones, their deaths did solicit regret from the US, including from the White House.
In the renewed Great Game spearheaded by the US and its western allies, Afghanistan is seen as the pivot to threaten and stir wars against Iran and Pakistan, both internal and external; limit the growing Russian influence and assertiveness; control the energy corridors in the Central Asia; and try to frustrate the Chinese efforts to harvest greater economic benefit for the region and its attendant soft power through the CPEC. In addition, the ISIS –that ubiquitous brand of ruthless terrorism that was ideologically and materially promoted in the Middle East to seek the devastation of the whole region and break the age-old political status quo to forge new alliances that are mainly helping Israel to ossify its stranglehold in the region – is now being germinated inside Afghanistan; and for the similar purposes.
Read more: US Interest: Kiss of Death for PTM?
U.S. funding ISIS?
The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai is on record that the U.S. is funding and arming ISIS inside Afghanistan. Many other reports citing empirical evidence also allude to that. Under these new priorities, the US has already reneged on its promise to leave Afghanistan, by far its longest war of occupation, using various flimsy pretexts. The mood inside the U.S. policy circles suggests that the U.S. might be planning to stay in the region for eternity to extract maximum concessions from its rivals in addition to stirring the region through its overt military and covert intelligence assets.
Suspicion and the Dark Side of the Alley
Pashteen and his associates have brushed off allegations of being part of any destabilization project that seek to foment wide-scale chaos in the region. His movement is creating excitement and suspicion; appreciation and loathing in a similar measure, creating new divisions among the Pashtuns who are already split by tradition in clans and sub-clans much to the detriment of their own interest. Besides, his frequent change of goalposts is fuelling nothing but doubts.
As an outsider – both as a non-Pashtun and a non-Pakistani – I find the movement as both exciting and confusing. Kick-started as a low-key Mehsud Tahhafuz Movement, it gained wide appreciation following the horrifying murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud which exposed the trophy hunting of the Mehsuds by the Karachi Police.
In the CIA-instigated Afghan Jihad, they had a massive image makeover: from the British colonialists’ categorization as uncivilized brutes, they became celebrated warriors wedded to a holy cause fighting Communist Russia.
The sudden conversion of the movement into the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) and an abrupt widening of its remit from fighting for the people of FATA to espousing the cause of all Pashtuns in Pakistan have provoked misgivings. Additionally, the support from the Afghan government and various western funded NGOs in Kabul and elsewhere has fuelled endless negative speculations. As there is a history of mutual interference between the two countries, including funding of terrorists and political proxies, this has caused alarm within Pakistan, even among a large collection of people who are otherwise sympathetic to the cause of the people living in FATA.
Read more: Is internal instability leading Pakistan towards chaos?
Are Pushtuns in Punjab Actually being Politicized and Securitized?
If the PTM claims to represent the Pakistani Pashtuns and suggests all of them are been victimized by the state, it would amount to nothing more than crude propaganda. If it is only talking about the sufferings of the Pashtuns, mainly in the unsettled areas or from these locales, the movement has failed to generate an honest debate. Several videos circulating about its public demonstrations place all the blame on the Army.
While the Pakistan Army cannot be absolved of wrong doings, including human rights violations, such a narrow view of the situation is not in consonance with reality. The slogans from the PTM cheerleaders accuse the army of supporting or advancing terrorism – which, for me, seems a deliberate provocation that is aimed at not only inviting the wrath of the security agencies but their retaliation too. Even the claims made by the PTM leaders such as Ali Wazir about the bad treatment meted out to the Pashtuns in Punjab is nothing but bunkum that is designated to create new divisions.
The Punjab is the most tolerant province with every ethnicity finding sanctuary in its melting pot. That is why while there were issues of Mohajir versus Sindhi in Sindh; and even thousands of Pashtuns were deliberately targeted by the political-terrorist group MQM, no such distinctions have ever been salient in the Punjab. In Lahore alone, there are thousands of Pashtun families living and their presence have never been politicized or securitized, not to speak of thousands of Urdu speaking families who migrated in 1947 or Kashmiris prior to that.
Read more: Imran Khan to expel 20 lawmakers from PTI
Toxic legacy of the US-led War on Terror: Thousands of Missing Individuals
The sufferings in FATA are real and heart wrenching. It started with the US-led Jihad project in the late 1970s that deliberately destroyed the local culture and traditional institutions to create a fertile constituency for extremism to suit its ends. In the aftermath of the 9/11, the US turned hostile against the very allies and its agents kidnapped thousands of people either on their own accord or using Pakistan’s military assets; and killed and maimed tens of thousands in drone attacks that continue till this day.
This was followed by Pakistan’s own military operations, again with large-scale devastation and massive population displacement. The most toxic legacy of the US-led War on Terror is thousands of missing persons, all of them Muslims, from all around the world – who disappeared in the void of the American military juggernaut, ably assisted by the armies and governments around the world, including that of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, the missing persons issue is wide-scale but not confined to the Pashtuns alone.
The sudden conversion of the movement into the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) and an abrupt widening of its remit from fighting for the people of FATA to espousing the cause of all Pashtuns in Pakistan have provoked misgivings.
While this is not to justify these horrific crimes, the missing belong to all provinces and ethnicities. According to reports, many of them have been killed and buried unceremoniously, but hundreds or perhaps thousands others languish either in Pakistan’s own dark spaces or that of the CIA and its allies in unmarked places. Regardless, the state has a duty to correct its wrongs and must address this issue judiciously and sympathetically.
Read more: “Diversity of Pakistan is our strength,” says Army Chief
Unfortunate Media Blackout on PTM
The media blackout of the PTM is not only unfortunate but also exposes the intellectual bankruptcy of the so-called Establishment. The Pakistani media has also failed in its duty not only to report the events but also to analyze the genesis of the process. It is really strange that a certain sense of bewilderment is exhibited at the ‘sudden’ popularity of the PTM. What is not discussed are the unprecedented levels of support the movement has received from the U.S. government propaganda assets like the Pashtu language Radio Deewa of Voice of America (VOA) and its other subsidiaries.
VOA inciting the Pushtuns?
For the past two months, the VOA has gradually built a narrative that is aimed to incite the Pashtuns against the state and subtly advancing the view that all that afflicts them is the handiwork of the Pakistani army. The VOA employs an army of Pashtu propagandists, mainly from Afghanistan, who are directing these psychological operations with a clear aim to encourage protests, embolden the organizers and heighten tensions.
The British government propaganda arm – BBC – also seems to work in tandem with the US with a clear aim to discredit the institutional framework of Pakistan. It is no wonder that a recent report exposes the modus operandi of the BBC and its deep relationship with the British intelligence establishment to advance skewed narratives of the British intelligence to manufacture public consent that suits their narrow political and security goals.
The most toxic legacy of the US-led War on Terror is thousands of missing persons, all of them Muslims, from all around the world – who disappeared in the void of the American military juggernaut, ably assisted by the armies and governments around the world, including that of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The western media, including the social media experts, used similar tactics to disseminate chaos and foment the so-called color revolutions in Eastern Europe and the 2009 Green revolution in Iran or the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013. The student protests in Hong Kong in early 2014 led by the 17-year old Joshua Wong were ultimately exposed to be inspired by the U.S. with Mr. Wong having been nurtured for several years to take up a political role.
Read more: Is Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement really staging “engineered protests”?
A video clip from a recent PTM gathering shows one of the organizers, Ali Wazir, directly addressing the Chinese: “I tell the Chinese ambassador, the projects that you have started in this country, do not engage in them. When we become the owners/rulers of the area, then come talk to us; do not do anything now”. If the words attributed to Wazir are true, this discredits the whole movement with the CIA footprints glaringly all over it. The American spy agency has engineered public demonstrations based on real grievances all over the world for strategic reasons.
Here the immediate target seems to be the CPEC that the US vehemently opposes and has taken a public position against it. If these demonstrations don’t extract the desired results, the next stage could see unknown people from among the peaceful protestors firing at the police or the army with a view to attract retaliation in order to receive ‘martyrs’ to mobilize further action as a prelude to a possible new insurgency or a mass civil unrest on both sides of the Durand Line. This is how the ‘revolution’ was started in Syria and Libya that continues to devastate the region and its people.
Murtaza Shibli is a British Kashmiri journalist and security expert. He is the author of the book, 7/7: Muslim Perspectives, a collection of reactions by the UK Muslims on the London Bombings of 2005 that killed dozens of Londoners. He tweets:murtaza_shibli. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.