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Dilemma of Pashtuns in Pakistan

Swat protestIt is costlier in Pakistan to challenge the tentacles of overdeveloped state institutes. Very few beings in Pakistan take dare to question the notorious role of state institutes in selling out the brand of religion and patriotism for exploitation. One of these beings, Manzur Pashteen a bearded man of twenties is now on the vanguard of war-weary Pashtuns demanding justice. Which reasons prompted Manzur Pashteen to take life in his hand through expressing ‘patriotic’ dissent over the role of law-enforcing agencies in FATA? Imperatives are heart wrenching and many-sided  which need a reality Check.

Pashtuns of Pakistan in general and of FATA in particular have been used by state as trip-wire to deter Afghan nationalism in the name of Pan-Islamism and to play trick on United States for transactional benefits. General Zia found an opportunity in the shape of Soviet invasion to deepen connections with hard-core religious elements of Afghanistan. Financed by US, Pakistan apprenticed warriors under the banner of Islam. Pashtuns were used as a fire and brimstone of the inferno ignited by US to burn down the foothold of USSR in Afghanistan. The very reason, behind why cultural capital of Pashtuns fell apart in the face of violent Islamic ideology, can be traced in the book ‘ The Pashtun question’ of Abu Bakar Siddiqui. The age-old conflict between Islamic austereness and liberal codes of Pashtunwali has been a main marker in determining the thought-way of Pashtuns dwelling on both sides of Durand line. Concept of ‘Nang’ and concept of Islamic ‘Qital’ when combined, gave rise to an unruly monster which was all-weather ready to pounce over an enemy in the name of Pashtunwali and Islam. General zia and other plotters made the most of this formidable binary through fusing and confusing code of honour with Islamic spirit. This was the onset of state-driven exploitation of Pashtuns. Triumvirate of players- Military, Mulla and Elites- played a collective role in shaping war of Afghanistan as collective dilemma of the nation. Systematic process of exploitation was begun with the takedown of Pashtun notables in Selective killings who would otherwise be able to prevent the misleading of their relatives. Next to this, local journalists of Pashtun region were silenced bit by bit. After unmaking the channels of leadership and journalism,  Pashtun youth was misled in the name of Religion.

Since then, Pashtun community is in social disarray. Notoriously, condition of Pashtuns living in Pakistan is more or less same to that of Pashtuns living in Afghanistan. From 2001 onwards, Thousands of Pashtuns in Pakistan have been killed in bomb blasts and extra-judicial killings. None in the rows of power-wielding authorities is ready to confess the mea culpa of human cost. This lack of recognition, sympathy and endorsement led Manzur Pashteen to give knock up call to Pashtuns. Unexpectedly, then-sleepy Pashtuns responded to his call with enormity and their oft-chanted trope is ‘Da Sanga Azadi dha‘, Pashto version of ‘What sort of freedom this is’ ? Jury of state is still out over answering this question.

Complaints of Pashtuns are not based on travesties because these are more than genuine. The extra-judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud is not the exception. Thousands of Pashtuns are missing to date. To make the lives of Pashtuns worse, highest number of fatalities has been placed to their side. According to South Asia terrorism portal, 58855 people have lost lives in terrorism across the country between 2005 and 2016. Out of these, 42094 casualties have taken place in Pashtun region- FATA and KP. The inclusion of fatalities occurred in the Pashtun region of Balochistan will uptick this figure of Pashtun-specific death toll. In the statistical percentage, FATA and KP account for 82 pc of total fatalities. Added to their miseries, Pashtuns have long been put to stereotyping, racial profiling and sweeping incrimination. It was not until the awakening of Pashtuns under the carapace of Manzur Pashteen that bereaved families of the victims began to give up the policy of wing and prayer.

Manzur Pashteen has not emerged out of blue. It is the continuum of barbarities in FATA which acted like a motor for Pashtuns to play out in the streets. More terrible in this entire arena of events is the non-seriousness of stake-holders including media. Hawks of Miltablishment are active on social media to libel Pashtun Tahafaz movement as anti-state. These false patriots don’t know that constructive dissent over the role of state is the best form of patriotism. Had they known this fact, Pakistan would never have been dealt in the world as terror-exporting state.

Still Hells have not broken loose. Litany of Pashtuns is redressible with salutary measures. To begin with, existing straitjacket of non-democratic forces in Pashtun region should be set side in the best interest of Pakistan. Furthermore, the business estate of extra-constitutional institutes working at the expense of local resources should be brought under proper check.

 Pashtuns are not second to other communities in the spirit of patriotism. What they all need is the status of first-class citizen.

Suhail Khan Mandokhel, hails from Zhob. He studies Law at University Law College Lahore.


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