The grisly and dastardly terrorist attack on a university in Charsadda named after the apostle of non-violence—Bacha Khan—is a shocking reminder that the states of the region have to re-visit their narratives and policies.
The ideological networking, strategic re-adjustment and tactical amorphous techniques of the violent extremist organizations in Pakistan and other states of the region have mostly fed on the narratives and policies of the states. The use of rigid interpretation of religion for political power and strategic interests gave birth to the Frankenstein called private militias. The facilitation of the not-so-proscribed non-state organizations led to the capacity of private militias to develop networked syndicates.
The construction of fear of and hatred against the ‘other’ led to the creation of recruiting base for the Frankenstein of terrorism. The distorted history taught in schools in Pakistan and elsewhere is replete with such material. War economy created and expanded with the consent of the states provided fuel and fodder for the Frankenstein to grow into a horrible monster.
The monster sucked the blood of various groups, people of various religious denominations, sects and nations. But it seems the monster has been busy engulfing the Pashtuns on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan for the last several decades relentlessly. Hundred and thousands of the Pashtuns were ruthlesslykilled, hundreds thousands were forced to leave their homes and thousands were deprived of their livelihoods only in the last one decade or so. The Pashtun society was kept in a perpetual fear that led to untold psychological trauma. Both dastardly acts of terrorism by the ruthless non-state organizations and sledgehammer of counter terrorism campaigns by the states seem to be responsible for this trauma.
The people of the Pashtun lands were cunningly denied the opportunity to develop skills and technology for converting their resources into products. Large scale investment to develop businesses and trades could not be made by companies and states due to ‘imposed wars and martyrdom’. Thousands of educational institutions that could impart skills for connecting the Pashtun lands with modern civilization were bombed and burnt. Hundreds and thousands of the Pashtuns remain jobless and hundreds and thousands of the Pashtun children are kept out of schools.
The Pashtun political movements that were inspired by democratic, progressive and humanist narrative of non-violence of the legendary Bacha Khan were censored andpersecuted. The Khudai Khidmatgaar (KK) Movement was shot at and bombed in 1948. The headquarters of the Khudai Khidmatgaar Movement in Charsadda was dynamited. The whole leadership of the National Awami Party—the descendant of the KK Movement—was incarcerated and put on trial for ‘conspiracy’ against the state of Pakistan in 1970s. Thousands of leaders and activists of Awami National Party—a descendant of National Awami Party—were killed and maimed by the fascist death squad called Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan after 2000s.
The cultural fabric of the Pashtun society was ruptured beyond recognition. Music and dance were banned. Poets and writers were harassed. The pluralist nature of the Pashtun culture was mutated into rigid and suffocating norms. The sufi shrines in the Pashtun lands were razed to the ground and the society was Saudized on a large scale. The last one and half century in general and the last four decades in particular saw the Pashtun lands being cut off from its indigenous cultural moorings, its ancient civilization and its fine arts. The states’ elites, imperial establishments and sectarian religious zealots turnedthis forced metamorphosis into a ‘coercive consent’.
The code of Pashtunwali was reconstructed by the imperial establishments so as to suit their interests. Allow me to quote a somewhat lengthy excerpt from my book The Militant Discourse published in 2013 by Narratives Islamabad:
One has to see the issue in the perspective of British colonial era in South Asia. From Elphinston to Caroe and from Azizuddin Ahmad to K K Aziz, the theoretical framework thus constructed has represented the Pashtuns in a peculiar manner, to make it easier for the powers that be to manipulate them economically, socially and politically. The Pashtun culture and society are stigmatized as other cultures and societies of other smaller nations living in Pakistan and around the globe have been marginalized. The contours of Pashtuwali have to be reconstructed which will probably lead us to the conclusion that Islam might be a cultural element in Pashtuwali, but Wahabism seems to be entirely disjointed if attached to the code of Pashtuwali. The dynamic code has incorporated almost every step of civilizational march of humanity in the last several decades. Poetry, art, literature, architecture, music and dance have been inseparable parts of the code that could be retraced over the last several centuries. The dynamic aspect of the code is usually ignored when it is brought under discussion by the academics and media around the globe. On the other hand, the Pashtun society despite having passed through numerous tumultuous experiences has not been able to build on the indigenous values and move forward towards a modern worldview. Both the constructs, the one by the colonial powers and the other by the indigenous people, need to be revisited in the context of the present crisis.
Writer: Dr. Khadim Hussain, Director Baacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation
The writer can be reached at
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