Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Authorities Should End Discrimination, Stereotyping
The young Pashtuns are marching again. This time they are in Balochistan. Mainstream media has once again failed them. Whether the media blackout is a result of express advice by the state or a mode of self-censorship or linked to corporate imperatives, it is a matter of grave concern. A generation of young, displaced and war-torn Pashtuns has grown up in contemporary Pakistan, which rightly feels marginalised. The young men and women of federally administered tribal areas are far better informed and networked than their predecessors. They are outraged at the fact that state treats them as second-class citizens. There have been many plans for FATA reform, proposals on mainstreaming and integration and nothing much has happened. Nor is it likely to until Pakistan’s security is viewed through the prism of Afghanistan and by extension the fear of Indian influence on the western borders.
Those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are also aware of the everyday insecurity that has affected thousands of families. In fact KP has suffered the most in the war on terror. The internally displaced Pashtuns have had to face the stereotyping, economic hardship and brutal state violence as was demonstrated in the case of Naqeebullah Mehsud – the young man who was killed in a police encounter by an illegally empowered yet rogue police unit in Karachi. Are these not issues of public interest? Are the demands of young Pakistanis not worth the airtime? Inordinate coverage has been given to mainstream power players especially Imran Khan in recent years. The 2014 and 2016 dharnas were brought to people’s living rooms. How is the issue of alleged corruption by Sharifs more important than the embedded corruption in FATA and denial of rights to a sizeable part of country’s population?
The young Pashtuns have taken the path of non-violent and peaceful resistance. It is reflective of democratization that has been underway for the past one decade. This should be acknowledged and appreciated. The colonial constructions of the Pashtun as the ‘warrior’ and ‘violent’ type have been reinforced for decades after independence; and have also been conveniently employed to prop up militias aimed at Afghanistan.Young Pashtuns are demolishing all these stereotypes by exercising their rights under the constitution.
Our colleagues in electronic media, and to some extent the print media, need to revise their policy. The state is likely to be offended for the ethos of Pashtun resistance is a direct challenge to the decades-old security policy that has treated the FATA badlands and KP as instruments of the war theatre in Afghanistan. Pakistanis have a right to ask their state why young men go ‘missing’ in the twenty-first century. And calling for fair and rule-based law enforcement is also not a crime under the law.
Therefore, decision makers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi cannot term the Pashtun movement as anti-state. It is all about constitutionalism and enforcement of fundamental rights. Our state has to come to terms with a changed Pakistan with a youth bulge, new media and information revolution. Unlike the past, information and ideas cannot be controlled with the rise of digital media. The same holds true for the corporate mainstream media that are only undermining their credibility by ignoring the young and angry Pashtuns.
What is problematic here is the political berth awarded to such proscribed outfits whose activities have continued without any significant pressure or checks from the government. Despite being connected to sectarian violence, ASWJ remains openly engaged in politics and openly campaigns to sway state institutions and major political parties through rallies and gatherings. Such organisations are sponsored to hold audience at universities and colleges, mainstreaming their ideologies despite being flagged as radical; such an audacious endeavor without tacit state sanctioning is not possible. While the National Action Plan (NAP) decries that such outfits should not be allowed to get an inch of space in Pakistan, the proscribed party has been allowed to operate on its soil with minimum checks, is granted public limelight, legitimising its political clout, inciting negative sentiments against Muslim minority communities in the country, and mainstreaming its opposition to reforms of the blasphemy laws.
Where most of the party leaders had been declared ‘proscribed persons’ under the Fourth Schedule of Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), the toothless law or the much touted NAP doesn’t restrict such persons from contesting elections. Such organisations’ successful campaign further sustains itself with alliances and support of various major and small political parties under seat adjustment agreements and pandering. Such kowtowing and to militant outfits by local political parties for illicit electoral gains is the main reason why there is not a more forceful clampdown on their activity.
Where the ECP should categorically deny such parties registration, they have freely registered under different names and obscure stand-in party heads; a gaping hole in our electoral system. The proposed amalgamation of proscribed outfits under the noses of the establishment speaks volumes of the states attitude towards militant groups and their ilk. It points to the very crevices of our state matrix where religious ideologies get peddled and demarcated in the bartering of political patronage and favors. PML-N had long prescribed to unwritten agreements with the ASWJ , an alliance that might have favored the flailing party previously in the short term, but now stands to be another thorn its side. With Allama Khadim Rizvi and his devotees stand with shoes unsheathed at a flailing PML-N, the ruling party has turned to currying favor with the less antagonistic Pirs and various Barelvi factions. Such political maneuverings by political parties have exhibited deep ramifications for our socio-political fabric at a time when we should be actively breaking away from the tincture of terrorism.