Home Global Village The rise of a ‘Pashtun Spring’: An open letter to Pashtuns

The rise of a ‘Pashtun Spring’: An open letter to Pashtuns


Farah Adeed |

Dear Pashtuns,

It has been more than a year since I wrote an open letter to you and addressed a very serious issue. In my letter How I, a Punjabi, was brainwashed with anti-Pashtun bigotry. And how I unlearnt it I talked about my personal experiences, some very odd stereotypes associated with Pathans and how did I unlearn everything anti-Pashtun I came across since my childhood. I do remember the time when I was very upset to see racial profiling of Pashtuns in Punjab. I urged the then government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to understand cultural differences and appreciate the diversity. I was happy to receive emails from UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the UK. You appreciated my article since someone from Punjab was speaking up for you. Many Pashtuns became my friends and I still maintain very good terms with them.

You all know about the rise of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) after the killing of a Pashtun youth Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud in a staged encounter in Karachi. Rao Anwar– former SSP who was held responsible for this staged encounter– was given special treatment by the police, politicians, and courts in Pakistan. I understand that the death of Naqeeb was painful but even disturbing was the special treatment given to his alleged murderer. I have seen unshed tears in his father’s eyes. It was heartbreaking.

The problem with PTM is that it has created a broader identity framework and now it is being used and misused by people like Reham Khan for their personal interests.

Naqeeb’s untimely and tragic death helped Pashtuns get united and initiate an organized movement to demand justice, security, and peace. Many non-Pashtun intellectuals, politicians, and human rights activists supported your demands and voiced for you. I extensively wrote on my social media accounts and urged the government and military to listen to Manzoor Pashteen, chairman PTM, and his colleagues and address their genuine grievances.

But soon this movement became a complex phenomenon when it apparently stood up against the armed forces of Pakistan. It was sad to see people equating General Asif Ghafoor with Rao Anwar. Missing persons’ issues, destructions of war on terror, and alleged anti-Pakistan elements in Pashtun belt were combined in a way that it made the PTM and its demands very suspicious and highly questionable.

As a matter of fact, the PTM and its leaders failed to maintain a difference between an institution and a few allegedly failed policies. As a Pakistani, I feel hurt when you say Ye jo dehshat gardi hai iske peeche wardi hai. Do you know you are waging a war against the entire institution and you are sparing nobody from the army chief to a soldier fighting for us on the Line of Control? Folks, this is unfair. This is unacceptable.

Read more: PTM: A Pashtun Spring..?

I agree that Pashtuns are facing severe problems in Waziristan due to war on terror and the state of Pakistan needs to address their issues very seriously. But Pashtuns also need to be vigilant and maintain a difference between the ones truly wanting their just voices to be heard and ones who have joined the movement only to instigate anti-Pakistan rhetoric.

Let me be very clear that no state compromises on treason or a threat to its existence. States do operate in a realist framework and they do anything (fair or unfair) to ensure their survival. This is the basic principle of realism which is globally practiced.

Moreover, now there is another trend taking place after the creation of PTM. A new identity card has been developed and it is being used by many people to project their vested political or personal interests. There is no denying of the fact that identities are created, diminished, and re-created in order to achieve some political objectives. The most interesting thing about identitarian politics is that it involves actors who have an emotional association with the group, not mere political affiliation. Emotional attachment along with political objectives helps to create a powerful pressure group within a given political context.

This implies that Rao Anwar, as well as any Pashtun found guilty of possessing illegal weapons, should be treated according to law. Rao Anwar’s special treatment must not be used as an excuse to let anyone else break the law.

The problem with PTM is that it has created a broader identity framework and now it is being used and misused by people like Reham Khan for their personal interests. Interestingly, any Pashtun even involved in illegal activities in Lahore cannot easily be arrested now since his arrest will surely be considered as ethnic hunting. On social media, you see stories like, ‘one more Pashtun arrested from Lahore for allegedly possessing illegal weapons’ and you witness a campaign against the law enforcement agencies, even after Police confirming to media that the said person was involved in illegal activities and was arrested according to the law of the land.

Dear Pashtuns

Our fight is against the unresponsive system and our struggle is to maintain the rule of law. This implies that Rao Anwar, as well as any Pashtun found guilty of possessing illegal weapons, should be treated according to law. Rao Anwar’s special treatment must not be used as an excuse to let anyone else break the law.

PTM is being led by the educated youth and I expect from you to be careful in this complex world. I mean you should be very clear about why The New York Times, The Economist, and Washington Post are giving you unprecedented coverage now. I hope you are well familiar with an English saying that ‘there is no free lunch in the town’. How can you possibly expect that in a capitalist world, your movement is being given space and time with no vested interest; there is no free coverage for anyone in those media conglomerates. Open your eyes and look around. Who is paying for the PTM? What is the price and who determines it?

Read more: Excerpts from Jinnah-Gandhi letters

I encourage all of you to stay firm on your basic demands; rule of law and socio-economic development. But do not make it a war against the armed forces of Pakistan because when you wage a war against army many of your supporters sitting in Lahore and Islamabad decide to step aside.

Sincerely,

Farah Adeed

Farah Adeed is a Senior Research Analyst in GVS. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s Editorial Policy.