In September last year, as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan recited spite at the United Nations General Assembly over alleged and untrue human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir by India, hundreds of protesters outside the New York building were blaming Khan for something similar. These were his own tribesmen, the Baloch, Pashtuns and other ethnicities from Pakistan.
Lending support to the Pashtuns, who held aloft the banner of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, have been men and women from Pakistan’s Balochistan and Sindh provinces. Most of them were from the Baloch Republican Party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz.
The Baloch allege that Pakistan, dominated by the Punjabi elite, is interested only in the region’s vast mineral reserves and other natural resources, and have been systematically killing its population to brutally undermine the valid demands.
“I would urge the people of India not to forget that Mohajirs were part of India before partition” Altaf Hussain, founder, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, in exlie in London cries against Pakistan.
Similar have been the pleas of Sindhis since long, against state-sponsored discrimination, apathy, and persecution by the ruling elite(Punjabi dominated Pakistan Army).
Their slogans echoed the sentiments of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, who had decried the 1947 partition with the words: “You have thrown us to the wolves.”
To most Pashtuns, Baloch, people of Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindhis, and Mohajirs the military-controlled Pakistan state is that wolf, it has been fattening itself at the expense of the tribesmen, the peripheral provinces and every common Pakistani also for years and now it has come to fore.
“It has taken us almost 15 years of suffering and humiliation to gather courage to speak up, and to spread awareness about how the military trampled our constitutional rights through both direct action and a policy of support for the militants” Manzoor Pashteen told the BBC.
Manzoor Pashteen was taken into custody in Peshawar along with nine others from his Pashtun Protection Movement. Pashteen, a charismatic former veterinary student, student of Army School himself, who shot to prominence two years ago, has become the face of the Pashtun Tahaffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM), in a country where few openly challenge the military.
The movement triggered by sudden reaction to the extra-judicial killing of a young Pashtun model in Karachi in January 2018, though simmering through decades of oppression and genocides at various times in Pakistani history. Naqeebullah Mehsud’s death at the hands of the military prompted many in his hometown of South Waziristan, to gather and protest against his killing. The movement quickly spread across the tribal belt and into other parts of the country, holding large rallies in Peshawar, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Swat, Dera Ismail, Bannu and Islamabad.
Since January 2018 Manzoor Pashteen and his movement have become the most significant challenge to the military. Historically in Pakistan such movements have often fizzled out or been hijacked/co-opted by the state, but the PTM has grown and grown in strength.
A media blackout has ensured the PTM’s peaceful rallies stay off front pages and TV bulletins – although the movement has been successful in getting its message out via social media. The state seems to have been unsure how to act against him, and the decision to detain him appeared sudden. Charges were laid on 21 January, but it took a week to make the arrest.
Almost laughably, the reason cited for the move is him speaking in an insulting manner about Pakistan and refusing to accept the constitution when he has often stressed in his speeches, the need to uphold the law.
Groups of Baloch, Sindhis, Mohajirs, Hazaras, and Kashmiri Balistani people have also attended the PTM gatherings, as minorities that have been at the receiving end of state’s suppression. The fact that the movement’s message and demands find resonance across the country, has given the military-political ruling establishment nightmares.
Mullah and Urdu-
Tools of Subjugation for all Ethnic Groups
Pakistan repeatedly blamed India and Afghanistan for stoking ethnonational sentiments within its nation. As a nation, it has always projected Wahabi Islam and Urdu as the common denominator among the different groups of the state, ignoring the ethnic and linguistic diversity of its people.
Any assertion of ethnolinguistic identity for seeking political rights, be it the Baloch, Bengali or Pashtun, is seen as contentious and against the very idea of the state. The creation of Bangladesh, which was Pakistan’s Mullah Urdu doing, gave the ideal excuse to ferment the idea that India was out to destroy, divide and break up Pakistan and that it would continue to apply pressure on Pakistan where it hurts.
Pakistan Army took it as an excuse, that Islam is the only ultimate savior, and what can keep united the balance of Pakistan, is Wahabi arm of religion.
Post 1971, and as a state political tool by General Zia, Pakistan’s landscape began to change. Their mosques spawned giant madrassas propagating hardline Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They soon became bitter opponents of the Barelvis, Shias and other Islamic Sufi sects, who they derided as being not real Muslims. Even common Punjabis, once more liberal towards women than the Pukhtuns, also began taking a line resembling that of the Taliban. Hanafi law started to prevail over both tradition and civil law.
Kamel Daoud, an Algerian journalist, describes Wahabism as, a messianic radicalism that arose in the fifteenth century, explicitly designed to restore a fantasized caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.
Power-hungry, who needed to accumulate forces to attack the prosperous regions of Indus Valley (Present day Pakistan) and Gangetic Plains, translated it to Ghazwa – e-Hind, which means killing of all non-believers, which includes anyone who is not Wahabi. According to this doctrine, Balochis, Pashtuns, Hazaras, Kashmiris, and all others are to be stripped off their regional identities, converted, the same which is to be done against Indian Sub Continent.
This idioticity, has been unleashed since that 1970s in various provinces of Pakistan, which have a beautiful culture and identity to boast of.
Resonates with every ethnicity and common Pakistani
PTM is demanding a removal of arbitrary check posts and landmines that are scattered across the tribal belt, a return of “missing people” and set up of judicial inquiry to find those who have been picked up by the Pakistan military over the years and an end to the military subjugation of their home.
Demand for having control over its own natural resources. Demand for freedom to practice religion their way, freedom from Wahabi Islam and removal of Urdu as a tool of Persecution.
While these seem straight forward and justified, the state has construed them as deceitful and treasonous. While Imran Khan and the army believe that Pashtuns are not only responsible for the Pashtun’s problems, but that the actions of the PTM are anti-state.
The PTM remains an entirely non-violent movement, one that is not working to secede or destroy the state. In fact, it works within the democratic polity of the state, simply demanding for a return of its constitutional rights.
Manzoor Pashteen, has continuously reiterated his belief that the solution to the Pashtun’s problems should be found within the constitution. He does, however, openly criticizes the army, something no Pashtun party has done in the past. This has led to a media clampdown on any reportage of the movement, arbitrary arrests of its leaders on charges of terrorism, suspicious deaths of some members, and of course a blame game involving India.
Pakistan deserves to be free of the tyranny imposed by Pakistani Military and political establishment using Wahabi religious extremism. Region co-existed with each other, as constituents of Indian Sub Continent since long, preserving its religious, ethnic, lingual and cultural identity. Pakistan Army, while using Wahabi Islam in a bid to use it as unifying factor, is self-defeating to its identity, as well as exploitative to common Pakistani.
The idea of Pashtunistan, a unified nation for Pashtuns that straddle the Afghan Pakistan border, has been a national movement in the region predating the creation of Pakistan as has been the Baluchi movement since the 1830s. The PTM’s success gives rise to fears of a secessionist movement, one that will not only break up the country but threaten other ethnic groups to further assert their identity.
The Political -military combine will continue to do everything it can to muzzle such movements, especially using Mullah driven Wahabi Islam. Since it has already gone so far as to classify citizens protesting injustices, as anti-state, it will push the PTM further, accusing it of stoking sectarian, communal flames or terrorism.
For PTM and related ethnic groups of Baluch, Hazara, Sindhis and common Pakistani, strength lies in the fact there be a civil rights movement, not a political ideology since latter has been always a case of being hijacked, either by Military or by the Mullahs.
This essentiate a civil movement, against Wahabi Islam of Mullahs, then only the grip of Pakistan Army and driven power circles can be challenged. It is then the region will see Peace and prosperity. Else Pakistan Army, under propagated righteousness of Wahabi Islam, shall continue to sell their land, resources and people to highest bidder, most recently to the Chinese, and continue shed blood of people.
07 Feb 20/Friday Written By: Fayaz