Home Opinion Op-Ed The rise of a ‘Pashtun Spring’: An open letter to Pashtuns

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

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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.


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. 

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  1. Who created Taliban? Listen to interviews of colonial Imam, major Amir. Read the book, the bear trap. Listen to general Musharaf interviews. And than go on till Raheel Sharif and Qamar javed bajwa. These terror promoting policies are till day promoted and supported by Pak Army. If it was an individual, it would hv been only general zia, gen Akhtar or Musharaf…. But every CoaS and his team continues these terror sponsoring policies which are directly affecting pashtuns. We, Pashtun, in Pakistan can prove on any neutral and powerful forum that as an institution army is backing these terror policies. We demand for a truth and reconciliation forum under umbrella of UN. If we are lying, Pak army will get more stronger, but if they are involved in it, they had to stop apologies and reconcilliate with Pashtuns. We stand by our words.
    یہ جو دہشت گردی ہے
    اس کے پیچھے وردی ہے

    • Tumhary najaiz baap amreeka ny bnai. Why am i even talking to u pond scum. Sitting in afg america and europe and barking against our country. Keep on barking scum, Pashtuns are patriots and loyal to this beautiful land and this country will stand tall atop traitors dead bones. Traitors like u.

  2. I am really amazed that you people (Panjabis) see only one side of the picture. I am not the supporter of PTM but have you ever considered looking into the ligitimate demands of PTM? No never becouse it shows your pseudo anatical grstures that you pretend to have. Why making a joint commission on missing persons is a night mare for you ? Internationally PTM is recognised becouse they raised some valid points and the state should address it to fill the gap of miss trust. For example what massage will be conveyed when you don’t arrest Rao Anwar ? Decide it your self

    Take care

  3. Strange that you admits the Pashtoon profiling both on media and state institutions, and complaining for our demands. We are not against state or its institutions rather we demand for truth reconciliation. Its 100% true that the entire religious net of terrorists was made by army, these group made our lives misserable later army launch opperations and directly hit the common Pashtuns in the name of collateral damage. The militants protected and now functioning in the name of ” Aman cometies ” again putting us in front of wolves with no support. What do you like we should not complain from the state, if yes then tell us where we must go and complain.

  4. Dear Farah Adeed,

    Reference to your open letter to Pashtuns and kind advice, I would like to thank you for your earlier article supporting the cause of Pashtuns and the instant one where you advised us to be cautious.

    Firstly you said that, you like the Pashtuns in their demand for justice, but you don’t like their slogans against the military. Well, dear Farah, injustices don’t occur in a vacuum, someone must have committed them. The victims strongly believe that these injustices have been committed by the Military so who do you expect them to blame. Do you want them to blame —Edhi centre, WAPDA or Muslim league for the crimes committed by the Military. Well, you might not be prepared to accept this, but what of the claims of thousands of victims. They don’t ask the state to take the military to task without due process. They ask for a truth and reconciliation commission to probe into the matter. In response, they are hunted individually and collectively in every respect. So, if the state is harassing the complainants and giving a cover to the alleged culprits, what do you expect the victims to do, you won’t digest a few slogans of those who lost their loved ones and livelihood. You want some gentleness? Never have there been victims of war struggling in such a dmrocratic and gentle manner. Isn’t it non violent and democratic? Don’t you believe that the response by state is undemocratic and arbitrary?
    Now after all this if you say that, fine you are right, but it isn’t good to raise slogans against an institution, you better review your notions of justice.
    Moreover, you referred to outsiders taking benefit of it, like foreign media outlets. Your own media and you are supposed to raise your voice for them and at least report the facts. There is a blackout of every activity except for some negative reporting. Don’t you question it. If some one is reporting it outside the country ( either on humanitarian basis or for their vested interests ) what do we do of it — stop raising our voice! No, the victims seek justice irrespective of taking care of the conveniences and reputations of the alleged culprits. Get some life, come out of your make believe world of equating an institution with the state. Pashtuns are Patriotic Pakistanis and are striving for Rule of Law and implementation of the Constitution. The institution which you are defending — and somehow got offended with the Pashtuns whom you otherwise liked — are incessantly violating the constitution and fundamental rights.

    So, it’s about time to support PTM, support all the progressive forces and all the movements striving for Rule of Law. Pashtuns lost enough of lives that they lost the sense of being courteous enough to not blame the oppressor, if they are strong enough and entail further risk. Hence, dear Farah, hoping you join the bandwagon of Justice & Peace !!

    Stay blessed
    A Pashtun

  5. PTM’s objectives are perfectly plausible / genuine but its leaders are obviously using them as smokescreen for anti state activities. How come RAW / NDS and VOA are extremely sympathetic / supportive of their movement. They are troubled by frequent checkposts and humiliation thereof, but absolutely against border sealing which would result in drastic reduction in checkposts. They are justifiably concerned with extra judicial killings / dissapearances in hundreds by security agencies but never condemned tens of thousands of killings by terrorists. They blame security agencies for turning a blind eye to some factions (good terrorists) but keep mum about well documented RAW/NDS sponsorship of terrorism on a much larger scale. They never uttered a word against cross border attacks by Mullah Fazlullah and party under benign official support as it would anger their Afghan paymasters. They never unconditionally condemned APS killers and splillage of Pakhtun blood in Markets, Schools, Football stadiums, Jirgas etc nor they have any issue with regular attacks on security convoys / checkpoints etc. In short they are totally focussed on unpleasant spillover / collateral damage and hence surreptiously aiming at weakening the War On Terror as desired by state enemies. They are nothing short of traitors surreptiously working against larger agenda of WOT.

  6. Dear so called analyst, either you are a big modified Gul Khan, or (most likely) ISI agent under cover, whole of your writing is full of filth, ethnic prejudices and insecure feelings about pushtoons which you couldn’t hide despite trying throughout your useless article. May Allah health you

    • Phuuuffffff you pashteen supporters and your stunted brains. You know what the article has all the food for a rational mind but that’s not the case for u as u have stunted one anyway.

    • Dear Kakar Sb
      Please go through my comments above. No one including me can deny the authenticity of PTM demands and grievances on face value. I only questioned their motive and accused them of duplicity and hypocrasy. If you can properly rebut my observations with proper references [which I might have missed], I shall be grateful.

  7. Very well written farah. Definately these blind followers need to ask there so called leader that who is paying for this movements coverages in foreign media as u have very well pointed out that how in a capitalist system, where everything is interest centric, is giving them so much free coverage. Somewhere something is very wrong and these blind followers needs to look into it.

  8. Well as soon as i saw voa, bbc, New york times and aljazeera giving immense coverage to this bashing movement i knew they have interests in it. As long as there demands were constitutional that was fine but as it turned into a state bashing movement they lost all their rational supporters.

  9. The complaints of PTM against army are almost comparable to a Punjabi complaining against the uniform of punjab police . Beating a policeman, burning tyres or banners on the road , pelting a bus are usually seen even after minor road accidents . The youth undertaking such things are not against the country but they vent their anger against the only visible symbol representing the system in front of them . However burning a grid station due to non availability of electricity only results in further losses of the people already effected . Similaly Army and Isi are state institutions , implemneting state policy. Destroying the institutions will be further compunding own loss. Blaming Isi for any policy matter would be like blaming Punjab police for defining the laws /regulations or making the constitution itself. Army ,rangers,police and ISI have been committed against jihadi organisation like lashkare jhangvi, sipah sahabaa ,separatist in Sindh and karachi, tribal warlords in balochistan …thus there is no targetting of a particular community . the anger being displayed by ptm at tge same time is not to destroy the state or it’s institutions but only a means to display it’s reaction and remorse.

    The pakhtoons /pathans are as much a part of Pakistan as they are part of army and IS I. HEAD of Isi during ist afghan war was an Indian born pathan and the policy maker of Isi in second afghan war (post 9/11) was also a local pathan general .pathans are integrated into all parts of pakistani society . If a realistic profiling of KPK is done, almost every family will be found to have at least one individual in army/FC/POLICE or even ISI itself..so practically it’s a pathan army …half of the recruitment centres of army are in KPK like Baloch//artillery/ FF /Azad Kashmir/NLI…even so called Punjab centre is actually full of pathans….there is no occupying foreign force in any part of Pakistan..all of it’s institutes are representative of all of it’s people…thus no question of international intervention of any sort. People of Pakistan will sort out the problems and grievances in all of it’s areas and communities may they be problems with Punjabi chahudry Saab, BALOCHI sardars, sindhi sayen or a pakhtoon Malik. The improved state of security with active participation of youth in political, sports ,education and economic activities is a proof of this commitment all over Pakistan

    PTM has an ideal chance to become a representative of paktoon youth by involving itself in constructive political activites. It should take on the legal cum political road to address the grievances and ask the state to strengthen the legal system for provision of timely justice. the movement should not identify itself as anti state or anti institutions nor should it be seen as a mukty force . Fight against terrorism has effected us all..not just pathans or punjabis …but all pakistanis and all pakistanis should look forward to a peaceful, prosperous and United Pakistan .


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