Ahsan Hamid Durrani |
There is no denying to the fact that the Pashtuns as an ethnic group has suffered the most at the hands of international power politics, regional rivalries, great games and the global war against terrorism. Thousands have perished, millions forced to leave their homes, and many more affected psychologically during the 17 years of war against terrorism. In Afghanistan alone, approximately 104,000 people have been killed during this endless war (Watson Institute).
Independent researches testify that Pashtuns comprise the majority on the death tolls due to their geographical presence in active war zones. The shockwaves of this ruthless war didn’t spare the Pashtuns of Pakistan. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and FATA (now merged with KP) faced the larrup of the deadliest phase of terrorism, killing and displacing thousands of Pashtuns on this side of the Durand line.
Sensationalism usually loses its flair when not supported by a concrete basis. As mentioned earlier, since most of its demands were met by the state, PTM started campaigning on issues divergent to its primary cause.
It took five major military operations, the sacrifice of thousands of soldiers and appropriation of billions of dollars to disrupt and dismantle the networks of these terrorist organizations and bring back peace and stability to the country.
Now that the order has been restored and we are gradually moving towards stability, there is no room for further divide, let alone any chaos and internal dissonance. If we have learned anything from our past, we must stand united against any internal or external threat.
That being said, it is equally important to alleviate the genuine grievances of war-torn areas especially the Pashtun belt. By overlooking the socio-economic development of this region, the state has given space to non-state actors to become a voice for the have-nots. The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) led by the flamboyant Manzoor Pashteen rose as a self-proclaimed representative of the voice of these forgotten Pashtuns.
Read more: PTM killed my brother: Matorkay’s brother
PTM gained a lot of traction in the start when it voiced concerns for missing persons, removal of army check posts and landmines in erstwhile FATA. Resultantly, the state responded by reducing the check-posts to 40-45% by handing them over to police and LEAs, and the judicial commission on missing persons recovered 3492 missing persons up to Nov 30, 2018.
As of March 21, 2019, 21231 mines have been recovered from the tribal areas of erstwhile FATA. The demand for complete removal of army check posts is, however, utterly impractical for these check posts have a deterrence value which not only can be leveraged for counterterrorism but also for other sorts of crimes.
It can either participate in this Jirga and talk out the issues it has been campaigning for with the parliamentarians of FATA – that have been elected by its people – or continue its movement of resistance and sloganeering without any real progress.
As a social movement, PTM has been successful in raising the eyebrows of the state. Its one year of activism was mostly aimed at sloganeering against the military establishment of Pakistan, furthering Pashtun nationalism, garnering the support of the liberal left of Pakistan and emerging as the voice of the marginalized Pashtuns of FATA and Baluchistan.
But in the recent past, PTM’s popularity seemed to have stagnated. Sensationalism usually loses its flair when not supported by a concrete basis. As mentioned earlier, since most of its demands were met by the state, PTM started campaigning on issues divergent to its primary cause. As a result, due to lack of actionable campaign, its popularity badly stunted.
Nonetheless, it still has an opportunity to become relevant – an opportunity to mainstream its demands. The open invitation to PTM leaders from the parliamentarians of erstwhile FATA for a Jirga (a council of elders) to meet the demands of the former is but a perfect opportunity for PTM to play the role of a responsible social movement – one that is serious in its demands for Pashtun rights. The ball, this time, is in PTM’s court.
It can either participate in this Jirga and talk out the issues it has been campaigning for with the parliamentarians of FATA – that have been elected by its people – or continue its movement of resistance and sloganeering without any real progress. Should it choose to boycott the Jirga, which seems probable based on how it has conducted itself up till now, PTM will lose its relevance among Pashtuns especially those nationalists who are in for real redressal of Pashtun’s grievances.
Challenges to PTM as a movement are ever growing. The internal rifts in PTM, serious disagreements between Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar on the future of the movement, threats of overcoming from Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), the fissure between Mohsin Dawar and Youth of Waziristan group (Noor Ul Islam), among others have seriously jeopardized the movement.
Taken together, these factors coupled with the plummeting narrative make it altogether more important for PTM to sit at a table with FATA (erstwhile) leaders and engage in meaningful dialogue if its rhetoric to address the issues of Pashtuns is truly genuine.
Ahsan Hamid Durrani is an Islamabad based analyst with interest in socio-political issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.