Pakhtuns after 9/11: Challenges and Lessons

The war on terror and its severe consequences have one silver lining for Pakhtuns and that is the growing realization.

File photo to accompany the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks

The month of September is a grim reminder of the fateful day when some zealots’ struck at the US. The calamity that befell the US took the lives of some 3000 people, the US hit back with extra ordinary measures, declaring war on terror and the terrorists’ safe havens around the globe. According to one account the US Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage warned Pakistan of bombing to the Stone Age, if it failed to comply with its demands.  Since 9/11 the Pakhtun are paying a very heavy price. Sending back to the Stone Age was not a sheer brag, they meant it. The 9/11 attack and subsequent Taliban’s obstinacy on the question of Osama Bin Laden provided US the opportunity to come and get a foothold in Afghanistan what was traditionally considered as the strategic “backyard” of Russia. So the Taliban’s project should not be seen mere the wishful thinking of some hardliner Islamist. In the process of dislodging the Taliban from power, Pakistan played a vital role and in return it was lavishly awarded, lifting sanctions and writing off billions dollar’s debt. However, over the years, in their fight with the terrorist, Pakistan became the most doubted ally; USA always asked for “to do more”. Pakistan too was entangled in a trap.

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Photo: AFP

The US and the rest of the world might have suffered because of terrorism but actually it is the Pakhtuns that they have been verifiably and veritably pushed into the “Stone Age era”. No doubt, FATA was not Paris, Switzerland or even Islamabad before War on Terror but it was never like after 9/11. The broken roads and infrastructure it had before further dilapidated after the operations launched by Pakistani military to eliminate terrorist hide out. Economic losses apart, the human loss the Pakhtuns land suffered is irreparable. Swat, Bajaur, WANA, Miran Shaha’s once bustling and full of life bazars and markets will be built but the human losses Pakhtuns suffered is indeed irreparable.  By destroying hundreds of schools and thousands of people the terrorist are after the end product, the educated class. Quetta bar, Mardan bar, Peshawar and Kabul recently saw their educated lot haunted and killed.

The US and the rest of the world might have suffered because of terrorism but actually it is the Pakhtuns that they have been verifiably and veritably pushed into the “Stone Age era”.

Why did Pakhtuns suffer the most? What is wrong with them? Is it because that Mullah Muhammad Umer, the one eyed, self-proclaimed commander of the faithful was Pakhtun or Faqir Muhammad, Baitullah Mahsud, or Fazlalullah were/are Pakhtuns? Indeed they are Pakhtun but not thier representatives. They are doing a yeoman service to the neo-imperialists. In reality they provided the opportunity at the cost of Pakhtun to the vested interests to fulfill their designs.  Being at the center of geo-politically and economically advantageous position, they are deprived of its dividends. The resourceful Central Asian states and multibillion dollar CPEC are of no use to them. They are the victim of security paranoia.  Remember, there are no front line states in war on terror, only targets. Has anybody thought that there are other ethnic groups in Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan as well but the sufferers have been in most cases the Pakhtuns?

One reasons for their wholesale massacre can be their being highly individualistic way of thinking or simply lack of unity, lamented hundred years back by Khushal Khan against his fight against the imperialist Mughals. Every Pakhtun considers himself an Alexander onto himself and wants the world to conquer alone; everyone is Marshal Tito and Napoleon. As Ghani Khan, the Philosopher-poet of Pakhtuns has said, he would love to burn his brother home rather would let him to live in peace. Unlike the rest of the communities, they hardly agree on one point and this is their undoing. For them their ideologies whether two nation or three nations, being on the left, right or center of the political spectrum is  more important than to be united and won. Pakhtuns are very rich in the field of bravery and everyone very often make them remind of their bravery. Greek, a small country, Italy, England or America has produced so many intellectuals, scientist and philosophers, however, Pakhtuns claiming to have thousands years old history is why lagging behind? It seems or it is portrayed that they are just a nation of commanders. So much so that even the great Khushal Khan is known to the people only as man of swords and poetry and not as a philosopher and intellectuals in his own right.   The war on terror and its severe consequences have one silver lining for Pakhtuns and that is the growing realization. A realization for their rights, a realization that why only and badly they suffer.

By Dr. Hanif-ur-Rehman

The writer is a professor of history in Peshawar University.

THE PASHTUN TIMES

2 comments

  1. Extremely good analysis proving an analysis of a British General that Pashtuns are good fighters but bad soldiers. it is supplementing the writer’s opinion. An army cannot be composed of Generals only. A nation is not composed of all leaders or intellectuals. It is our individualism and tribalism that has brought us to this miserable state.
    The Army has A general and a nation has a leader. If Mr Armitage didn’t bring us to the stone age their sub-contractor Pakistan did it. It needs a lot of time and hard work first to come to the stage where we were before Zia. Generation lost…

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