Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Rao Anwar Ahmed Khan's police force in Karachi shot dead a 27-year old Mehsud Naseemullah (aka Naqeebullah), originally from South Waziristan, during an encounter. Rao Anwar had organised similar encounters in the past and in the last seven years there had been 200 clashes in the Malir District of Karachi in which 450 people had been killed.
Details of these killings are scanty or simply do not exist except that a large number of the dead were Pashtun. For Rao Anwar, the killing of Mehsud along with three others in Shah Latif Town was a routine affair where the dead would be shown as terrorists enabling to drill additional notches on the butt of his gun. These killings were presumably trophies ensuring further rewards. As it turned out, Mehsud was no TTP or any other terrorist. Although he had come from the lawless borderlands of FATA, he had left home with his family during the Pakistan military operation in Waziristan and made their way to Karachi, a city which has the largest number of Pashtun living outside their province.
The family did not settle in Tank or Dera Ismail Khan as many others had done.
He was active on the social media and wanted to be in the world of fashion. But he was kidnapped on January 3, killed in an 'encounter' on January 12 and his family was informed on January 16. The Pashtuns' of Sohrab Goth and other parts were infuriated with the news and his friends were out on the streets protesting. The protesters marched from the Sohrab Goth graveyard to Peshawar.
Several people from Dera Ismail Khan, Multan, Tank and even Waziristan joined them. Eventually, Pashtuns in thousands held for sit-in demonstrations in Islamabad.
Addressing the large gathering of protestors outside the Islamabad Press Club was Hamid Mir, one of Pakistan's foremost TV journalists.
Mir has had several brush-in with the Rawalpindi crowd in the past but this did not prevent him from delivering a fiery speech, describing the demonstrations as a fight against the violators of the Constitution and the law of the land. He also added that unless these demands were met, demonstrations would spread to other parts of the country, beginning with the demand for seeking justice in the clearly dubious killing of Mehsud, the demands have now grown to include other grievances of the Pashtun.
The crowd also sought punishment for Anwar Ahmed and demanded that extra-judicial killings be stopped, that land mines planted in FATA which resulted in innumerable civilian casualties, including women and children, be removed, end enforced disappearances all over Pakistan, especially in Balochistan, Sindh and Pakhtunkhwa and innocent Pashtun be freed. They have also objected to racial profiling of Pashtun, asserting that they have been victims of inhuman torture and that all this amounted to genocide.
Despite the venue of the protests, media coverage in Pakistan has been scanty unlike the coverage of the Tehreek-e- Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah sit-in last November where the government seemed to have given in to the demands and the media had covered the events extensively, presumably under instructions.
So far, the Pashtun Long March and protest, for which thousands of people of all ages had participated is the first of its kind, has been orderly and peaceful. Many of the marchers have stepped out of their regions in FATA for the first time and have come to tell their story. Their story is that of deprivation for decades living in squalid camps and then returning home where they faced land mines and IEDs. With endless conflict in Afghanistan since the 1980's, generations of Afghans have died away from home fighting a war that was thrust upon them. In the early days of the Afghan jihad, it was a justified war against the Soviet invasion but their departure did not bring peace to Afghanistan.
Pakistani desire to control Afghan destiny then led to interminable conflict in Afghanistan as it sought strategic depth in Afghanistan for its forces against India. If the Afghan Mujahedeen fighting the Soviets had religious overtones, Pakistan tried to control Afghanistan through an ethno-religious force of Pashtun - the Taliban - fighting for control of Afghanistan against the government in Kabul.
The US military involvement in Afghanistan since October 2001, without controlling Pakistan's behaviour has been a horrible, expensive and an unsuccessful adventure. In the process, Afghanistan has suffered, and so have the Pashtun, on both sides of the Durand Line.
For decades now, they have faced violence and loss at the hands of the Taliban, the Pakistan Army and the US military drones.
It is true that the Taliban was essentially a Pashtun force but not all Pashtun were members of the Taliban or sympathised with them. Pakistan hoped that a religious force would submerge ethnic aspirations on both sides of the Durand Line. With time, the Pakistani ploy of making use of a religious identity of the Taliban and their extremist ideology to keep control over Afghanistan has backfired. By continuing to refuse to act against the Afghan Taliban with the excuse that this would bring the war back to Pakistan that is precisely what has begun to happen.
The attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2016 and now the killing of 11 soldiers, including an officer, and injuring 13 in Swat earlier this month in a suicide attack by the TTP is an example of the war that never really ended.
Besides, it must be well-known to the Pakistan authorities that the Taliban website operates from Karachi, the safe havens and military hardware given to the Taliban with the notorious Haqqani Network as their favourites are well-known and Pakistani policy towards the US has remained duplicitous with very little congruence of interests.
Peace in the Pashtun region of Pakistan and Afghanistan is dependent on Pakistan's policies in Afghanistan that in turn impinge on its domestic behaviour.
An estimated half million Pashtun refugees had moved out of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to safer havens in other parts of Pakistan. Unavoidably, refugees add to demographic and social pressures as well as law and order problems. They become centres of extremism, anger, crime and extortion. It gets more complicated when forces like the Taliban use refugees as camouflage for their own activities. For years, Pakistan followed the principle of conducting two-front jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir by splitting the jihadis to keep control of the jihad. The result is that today we have a situation where competitive jihad has been going on with different groups operating together, or independently or in case of sectarian groups, operating with their own agenda. The picture in the Pashtun regions is complicated with no-one truly in control. The normally India specific groups have also been operating as support for the Taliban but government action under pressure against Lashkar-e- Tayyaba/Jamat ut Dawa outfits and its schools and social welfare institutions, mainly in the Punjab, is not likely to go down well with this Jihadis.
It is often forgotten that latent suspicions about and animosity towards Pakistan, mainly its Punjabi establishment and army, have existed among the Pashtun from the beginning.
Today, the Pashtun complain that their progressive nationalist movement was crushed by eliminating thousands of their cadres and their culture systematically broken. The Afghan and Pakistan position on the issue of Pashtuns is linked to Amir Abdul Rehman's surprising acceptance of Mortimer Durand's proposal to demarcate the boundary known as the Durand Line in November 1893. It was not just a demarcation of a line that Durand sought; but territory from Peshawar to the Indus and from Chitral to northern Balochistan up to Quetta that became part of British India.
Before that date, Afghanistan and British India met on the banks of the Indus. Years later Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan would speak hopefully of a Pakhtoonistan uniting all the Pashtuns.
His son, Khan Abdul Wali Khan later in 1975 described his identity as that of a six thousand- year-old Pashtun, a thousand-year- old Muslim and a 27-year- old Pakistani. This catches the essential cultural and ethnic unity of the Pashtun despite their frequent quarrels among themselves.
However, Pakistan would want them to be divided and the Durand Line accepted by the Afghans as the boundary.
Meanwhile, Pashtun leaders have raised slogans of azadi and threatened to bring Karachi to a standstill if Rao Anwar Ahmed Khan is not arrested within a week the government in Islamabad agonises over the fate of Kashmiris with the usual promises and threats.
Surely, the government will try to break the protest one way or another. The favoured option could be to let the religious militia intervene to give the protests an Islamic hue, discredit the movement as a non-event, anti-national and/or anti-Islamic.
THE politics of grievance that PML-N supremo and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif has been honing in his campaign-style rallies across the country is centred on a contrast.
Elected civilian leaders are ousted on one pretext or the other by the courts, while the illegitimate rule of military dictators has always been sanctified by the superior judiciary.
Mr Sharif is, of course, right. But the juxtaposition of civilian governments with military rule conveniently and self-servingly overlooks Mr Sharif’s historical role in propping up and defending military rule and supporting anti-democratic interventions.
A thrice-ousted prime minister, Mr Sharif is entitled to change his politics, and it is encouraging that the leader of one of the largest mainstream political parties in the country is now adamantly opposed to anti-democratic rule. But Mr Sharif would gain more credibility if he were to publicly apologise for his own political past.
Arguably, had it not been for the brutal and society-changing dictatorship of Gen Ziaul Haq, the PML-N electoral juggernaut would not have come into existence, and a Sharif political dynasty may never have become a possibility.
Not once has Mr Sharif publicly denounced the Zia era or apologised for his role in sustaining it.
An apology would certainly matter. Zia’s brutal regime was neither the first dictatorship nor the last, but its pernicious effects continue to be felt across state and society to this day. Some allies of Zia eventually recognised their error and apologised for it.
The father of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Khawaja Muhammad Safdar, was a close ally of Zia, a fact that the son has publicly regretted on several occasions.
A willingness to acknowledge fundamental mistakes in politics is important because as the democratic process is once again under stress from anti-democratic elements, there are civilian politicians eager and willing to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Mr Sharif may denounce present-day facilitators and collaborators of anti-democratic rule, but without a sincere apology for his role in propping up the Zia era, his present-day fulminations against his opponents will appear to be little more than factional warfare among a permanent political elite.
It is also strange that while Mr Sharif is keen to remind institutions of the state of their role in anti-democratic interventions in the past and denounce them for it, he is unwilling to speak of his own political past openly and forthrightly.
A Sharif apology for the Zia era is needed.
Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said on February 6 that Washington recognizes the "benefits of cooperation" with Pakistan and acknowledges the "enormous sacrifices the Pakistani people and security forces have made to combat terrorism."
But he also said that the United States intends to "hold Pakistan accountable for its failure to deny sanctuary to militant proxies."
Early last month, the U.S. government announced it was suspending security assistance to the Pakistani military until it took "decisive action" against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network that are operating in neighboring Afghanistan. U.S. officials said the freeze could affect $2 billion worth of assistance.
"We may consider lifting the suspension when we see decisive and sustained actions to address our concerns, including targeting all terrorist groups operating within its territory, without distinction," Sullivan said.
Islamabad denies harboring militant groups that carry out attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.
The deputy secretary of state, who met with President Ashraf Ghani and other top Afghan officials during a visit to Kabul last week, said they "reiterated their support for our strategy," and pledged to create "the conditions that will bring the Taliban to the negotiation table."
"We hope the Pakistanis will also help to convince the Taliban to enter a peace process," Sullivan added.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
In recent weeks, Kabul has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on January 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.
After the attack, Trump rejected the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon.
"We don't want to talk with the Taliban," Trump said on January 29. "There may be a time, but it's going to be a long time."
Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.
The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.
By MEHREEN ZAHRA-MALIK
At first, the killing last month of Naqeebullah Mehsud — an aspiring model shot by the police in Karachi who claimed afterward that he was a Taliban militant — seemed merely the latest in a long series of abuses carried out by the authorities against ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan.
But Mr. Mehsud’s case has proved different. The 27-year-old’s killing, in what appears to have been a staged gun battle, has prompted a protest movement led by young Pashtuns from the tribal areas in the country’s northwest, where they have long been the targets of military operations, internal displacement, ethnic stereotyping and abductions by the security forces.
Last week, a social media-savvy group of young Pashtuns organized a sit-in in Islamabad, the capital, promoting it with the hashtag #PashtunLongMarch. As of Tuesday, the demonstration’s sixth day, at least 5,000 Pashtuns from the tribal areas and other parts of the country had joined, and members of all major Pakistani political parties had declared their support.
“Certainly, this kind of organized struggle for Pashtun rights, reforms and resources has not been seen in years and years,” said Rahimullah Yusufzai, the Peshawar-based editor of The News, a Pakistani newspaper. “The people of the tribal areas have had pent-up feelings of resentment and anger at their treatment by the state for decades,” he added. “Naqeebullah’s killing was just the tipping point.”
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, which border Afghanistan, are governed under regulations dating from the era of British colonial rule. Pakistani courts and Parliament have no jurisdiction there; instead, they are ruled by a “political agent” appointed by the central government. Pashtuns and others living in the tribal areas have few rights and can be exiled, their homes and businesses razed, and members arrested en masse over minor transgressions.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the tribal areas — particularly South Waziristan, where Mr. Mehsud was from, and North Waziristan — became a front line of the war on terrorism, as Al Qaeda and other groups took refuge there. Pashtuns in the tribal areas suffered both from militant attacks and from crackdowns by the army, and those who fled to other parts of Pakistan — like Karachi, in Mr. Mehsud’s case — say persecution followed them.
“Thousands of young Pashtun boys have disappeared in the last decade and a half, picked up from their homes and universities and streets in the name of curbing militancy,” said Farhad Ali, the 24-year-old vice chairman of the Fata Youth Jirga, one of the organizations leading the Islamabad protests. “We want all these young men to be produced before a court of law and concrete evidence presented that they have committed any crime.”
“This is one of our major demands: Stop this stereotyping of Pashtuns as militants,” Mr. Ali said. “Stop imposing curfew in our areas every time there is any untoward event in another part of the country. Let us live in peace, please.”
The demonstrators, who have set up tents outside the National Press Club in Islamabad, are also demanding the arrest of Rao Anwar, a Karachi police commander who has been accused of killing Mr. Mehsud and who is now on the run.
They also say they want the army to clear land mines from the tribal areas, particularly the South Waziristan district. Mr. Ali said that since 2009, more than 35 people had been killed by land mines in South Waziristan. “I wanted to do something with my life, I wanted to become someone, but look at me,” said Islam Zeb, from South Waziristan, who took part in the Islamabad protest. Mr. Zeb said he had been blinded in a land mine blast that cost his brother his hand.
“If a soldier is wounded in a land mine explosion, entire families are arrested, people disappear without a trace,” Mr. Zeb added.
The Pakistani Army’s media wing denied that the army had ever laid mines in the tribal areas, saying that militants had done so. But it said that the army would send 10 demining teams to South Waziristan immediately. Other officials were also quick to assure the demonstrators that they had been heard. Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, a government minister who met with protest leaders, said the government fully supported their demands. But he declined to say when they would be met.
Manan Ahmed Asif, a professor of history at Columbia University, called the tribal areas “a geography outside the laws of the nation,” where both militant groups and the army had found that “violence could be meted out with little regard to its inhabitants.”
At least 70 percent of the region’s five million people live in poverty, the literacy rate is just 10 percent for women and 36 percent for men, and the infant mortality rate is the nation’s highest. For years, Pakistani militants have used the lawless area to initiate assaults against Pakistan’s government and against United States-led forces in Afghanistan.
Since 2001, the Pakistani military has launched 10 operations against militant strongholds in the region, most recently in 2013 in North Waziristan. The offensives have displaced almost two million people, according to figures from the United Nations refugee agency and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, as homes, schools and hospitals have been turned into hide-outs by militants and meager civic amenities have been destroyed.
The Pakistani Army says it is now spending millions to repatriate displaced people, rebuild infrastructure and earn residents’ good will. But many residents still view the soldiers as occupiers, and militants continue to pose a threat.
Parliament is considering a proposal to merge the war-torn and neglected tribal areas with the adjoining province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. That would allow the people in the tribal areas to become full citizens of Pakistan for the first time. But the plan has become a divisive issue among those favoring reform, with some political parties opposing a merger and calling for the tribal areas to become a separate province instead.
Simbal Khan, a security analyst and nonresident fellow at a think tank, the Center for International Strategic Studies, in Islamabad, said she was skeptical that the protests would lead to real change for Pashtuns.
“All this movement you see, it is pre-election mobilization,” Ms. Khan said, referring to national elections scheduled for July.
“It doesn’t portend to become a genuine Pashtun uprising,” she added. “Political parties and other groups want to pick up issues that resonate with the public, and this march provides them a platform. This is just politicking.”
Activists claim state following 'racist' policy against Pashtun community.
A sit-in by the Pashtun community in front of Islamabad Press Club against the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud and alleged state oppression has entered its third day. Despite electronic media’s blackout of the protest, social media is abuzz with posts expressing solidarity with the protesters. Twitter users have condemned the mainstream media for ignoring what they called a ‘peaceful resistance’.
Ziauddin Yousafzai, father of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, also complained about media blackout of the protest and tweeted, “?1st time in the past 3 decades thousands of Pushtoons are out to demand #JusticeforNaqib and peace for their terror torn homeland. Media gave 24 hrs to cover the 500 ppl sit in of Khadim Rizvi & here thousands of people are blackout from TV screens. #PushtoonLongmarch”.
Activist Sangeen Khan said, “Speaking to the #JusticeForNaqib Sit in in Islamabad today. Anger of pashtun youth particularly wazir & mehsuds sufferings due to State policies has reached new heights. Deplorable that instead of taking course correction the powers that be has opted a media blackout of protest”.
Journalist Ihtisham ul Haq? tweeted, “Thousands of Protesters are on the streets of Islamabad from Pashtun community chanting #JusticeForNaqib No media is covering this protest or showing it Live, But good to see the whole community is on the same page & won’t step back until get Justice, Find #RaoAnwar .”
Activist Khadim Hussain said, “The so called mainstream media of Pakistan has completely ignored a non-violent resistance to oppression, target killing, Pashtun genocide and rights movement. #PashtunLongMarch”.
Twitter user Ahmad Ali Khan? tweeted, “No rights for Pashtun, no safety, no justice, and now the list includes no coverage in the so called mainstream media? Why are these Pashtun cornered and pushed to the wall though they ask for democratic/constitutional/basic human rights as citizens of Pakistan #PashtunLongMarch”.
Activist Palwasha Abbas? said, “A huge gathering of Pashtuns at Capital totally washedout from mainstream media ,and this is not for the first time we have faced such discrimination from media #JusticeForNaqeeb #PashtunLongMarch”.
Twitter user Tariq Afghan? tweeted, “This is the part of racial profiling when your voice is censored by the state institutions. No coverage of media to #PashtunLongMarch is the part of this policy #PashtunRejectStateTerrorism”. Twitter user Naseer? said, “It shouldn’t only be the #PashtunLongMarch all communities across Pakistan should join and protest for justice. All media need to play positive rule and give coverage”.
Activist Abdul Waheed Afridi? tweeted, “Since 2003, Pashtuns been sacrificed everything include their Future, Generations, Happiness, education. Witnessed the devastation of infrastructure, Schools, Colleges. What we have Got? Still fingering on our nationality! SAD… #PashtunLongMarch”.
Twitter user Shafiq Mehsud? tweeted, “In 2008 when displaced #Pashtuns women/children from #FATA sought entry into Punjab/Sindh, they were refused entry and were declared a threat; this racist policy was put in action again during the 2014 operations too. #NaqeebMehsud #PashtunLongMarch #PashtunRejectStateTerrorism”.
Activist Gulalai Ismail? tweeted, “Demands of Pashtun Long March 1. Punishment for Rao Anwar & his team 2. Stop extra judicial killings in Karachi & Pakistan 3. Remove land mines in FATA 4. Recovery of missing persons, presenting them in courts & freeing innocent #PashtunLongMarch”.
Journalist Abdur Rauf Yousafzai? said, “Killer Rao exposed the very weak roots of this state; “Might is Right” is The living formula in #Pakistan #PashtunRejectStateTerrorism #PashtunLongMarch”.
Journalist Malik Achakzai tweeted, “Islamabad: majority of the speakers at #PashtunLongMarch narrates the accounts of victims of terrorism how they are framed as “terrorists” through Pakistani media this is the double edge sword that leads peaceful people like #NaqeebMehsud being killed in fake encounters”.
Journalist Nazrana Ghaffar? said, “Naqib killing has become a turning point. No more extra judicial killing will be tolerated- Protestors told VOA #PashtunLongMarch”.