The tribal people endured the atrocities of the Taliban first-hand. When that was over, they suffered at the hands of the security agencies
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
OP-ED - #Pakistanis deserve to know about #Pashtun Tahafuz Movement
That PTM has organised rallies all over Pakistan despite the enormous hurdles placed in its way, is a testament to the fact that their aims are not irredentist.
In the age of social media, it is nearly impossible to suppress information. Thus, both my Whatsapp messages and Twitter timeline were flooded with stories and videos about the attack on Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) supporters in Wana yesterday. Yet, if one turns to Pakistani television channels, there is only chatter about the upcoming elections, the judiciary’s recent rulings, even Reham Khan’s still-to-be-published book. The attack in Wana seems completely forgotten. Not only will this blackout reinforce the tribal people’s view that their lives are less valuable than other Pakistanis, it will also strengthen the PTM.
What is the PTM? People who live in other parts of Pakistan deserve and need to know what this movement stands for. These are fellow Pakistanis who have lived in a war zone for nearly the last two decades. And while people suffered because of Talibanisation and the War on Terror all over Pakistan, the tribal people of FATA suffered more because it was their area that was affected the most. Thus they endured the atrocities of the Taliban first-hand. When that was over, they suffered at the hands of the security agencies.
There are numerous tragic stories in this area. Stories of displacement, missing loved ones, death and destruction. As their leader, Manzoor Pashteen, said in one of his speeches (translated from Pashto), ‘Come and let us vent together.’ It should not be difficult to understand that the people of this area are deeply traumatised. They need to heal from all the violence and death they have seen, from the loss of dignity that displacement brings, to being wrongly profiled as terrorists because of their ethno-linguistic background, even as they were the ones who faced the brunt of Taliban barbarity.
Despite living through this ordeal, there are many aspects of the PTM that are admirable. First, the insistence upon peaceful means. For anyone who believes in the National Action Plan or the idea that civilian initiatives must work in tandem with the military to rid ourselves of violence and radicalisation, this alone should be inspirational. Second, a belief in the Constitution and a call to asserting rights as citizens of Pakistan. This is a modern idea rooted in the rule of law, and one that would make Jinnah proud.
Third, a respect for women and a display of active female participation in their rallies. Again, this is something that should make us proud and attests to the inclusive nature of this movement. Fourth, contrary to the propaganda against it, this is not a separatist movement. The PTM wishes to remain within the ambit of Pakistan’s laws and are demanding rights not just for Pashtuns but all Pakistanis. That PTM has organised rallies all over Pakistan despite the enormous hurdles placed in its way, is a testament to the fact that their aims are not irredentist.
What then is the problem? Well, it turns out, their version of how events transpired in the last decade and a half do not match the state’s official narrative. So what? We are a nation of 200 Million people, sixth largest in the world by population. Our strength lies in our diversity. We cannot and should not expect everyone to think the same, particularly when our experiences aren’t the same. How can we expect someone who lost 17 members of his family by living in a war zone or someone whose father is a missing person for the last five years to be as patriotic as us? Instead of painting them as anti-state, and asking them pointless questions like if they fly the national flag or sing the national anthem at their rallies, as patriotic Pakistanis, we should be giving them a patient hearing.
This does not mean we have to agree with everything they say. For it is true that many military families have suffered in this fight as well. Many military men have lost their lives, leaving behind young widows and children. Their sacrifices are enormous and one has great respect for them, but by the same token, the civilians who have perished in this ugly fight are no less precious.