Pashtuns may have entered the sub-continent from the North Western corridor, but today they are not confined to one province and scattered all over the country. They stick to a set of ethics and code of conduct which they call ‘Pashtunwali’. Although I am an urban Pashtun and we have drifted away from ‘Pashtunwali,’ the rural Pashtun or the Pashtuns living in tribal areas still have Pashtunwali incorporated in their lives. Additionally, they are also proud of their Pakistani identity, of which they are an integral component.
I affirm that I cannot thank my forefathers enough for choosing to migrate to this side of the subcontinent for trade from Jalandhar, though it was before Pakistan got independence in 1947. My paternal grandfather, a Yousafzai Pashtun served the country amongst the first and few textile engineers of Pakistan – he worked and lived in Bannu for more than 36 years of his life. My maternal grandfather, a judge and a lawyer from a small village called Shweki near Kohat, spent half of his life in Karak and the rest in Kohat. And as both my paternal and maternal sides of the family have been settled in Bannu and Kohat, I have traveled extensively to Kohat, Laachi, Karak, Bannu, Miran Shah, DI Khan, Banda Daud Shah, Thall, Hangu, and Parachinar tribal areas. Moreover, since we later settled in Peshawar, I have also traveled a lot to Swat, Mingora, Dir, Mardan, Topi, Swabi and so on. The love for this land and its diverse people runs in my blood, and this love is beyond the language I speak, the ethnic background I belong to, as for first and foremost, I am a Pakistani – and I am proud of it, just like I am proud to be a Pathan.
I was thus, intrigued when I came across a piece, in New York Times, with an interesting title, “To be young and Pashtun in Pakistan” but as I started to read, my intrigue turned into shock and horror. Can anyone in their right mind, paint the utterly flawed and misleading picture the way this writer did. Agreed, it is an Op-Ed piece and people write all kind of nonsense under the cover of “opinion” but could there be a limit, a check on the disconnection. This writer cleverly ends up painting a Pakistan where Pashtuns are “unequal citizens of an Islamic Republic” – which almost looks like the main purpose of this piece of writing.
That was the moment when I felt like shouting: Excuse me! We, the Pashtuns constitute at least 30 million – if not 35 million as some sources claim – of Pakistan’s diverse population. And we are almost 21% of the Pakistan Army against a population of not more than 15% of Pakistan’s 220 million citizens – this despite the fact that the Army, for the past 25 years, has been trying to align its composition to give equal representation to all ethnicities to be called a “National Army” and we are represented in civil services, judiciary, arts and sciences, film and theatre; we are doctors, engineers, lawyers – from news rooms of Pakistan’s powerful media to board rooms of Lahore and Karachi, we are every where. We are not just Mehsud tribesmen – entangled unfortunately in a super power’s created nasty war in South Waziristan – we are everywhere from Khyber pass to the port of Karachi.
Whether we talk of Zeb & Haniya, the young talented coke studio singers from Kohat, or we talk about Naseer Afridi & Shahab Qamar, a rock band from Peshawar who mainly sing in Pushto – inequality is out of the question. There is also another band from Peshawar named Khumariyan; this band incorporated Pashtun instrument Rabab in their songs and mixed Pashtun music with rock pop. And Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pashtun, has made us all indebted to him for making this country a nuclear state. Further to this, why forget Saba Khan? The first-ever female fighter Pilot in Pakistan Airforce, adding to a long endless list of generals and soldiers who fought and laid their lives for this country. And then, here is an obscure Op-Ed writer in New York Times telling us and the world that “Pashtuns are unequal citizens of an Islamic Republic” Give us a break!
New York Times may be a great publication but its biases towards Pakistan are well known. It was obvious that the writer – in search of instant fame – was trying to fit himself into these biases. New York Times went overboard by adding pictures and finally a six-minute video of Pashtun protests inside the Op-Ed. “Is this an Op-Ed or NYT editorial campaign?” I wondered. I am a media person myself and to me, it was clear that the NYT was not just publishing a mere “opinion piece” but was trying its level best to shape a narrative.
There was another article by an American writer, ‘Why Pakistan’s Pashtuns are pushing back?’ I am a Pashtun and I am not pushing back. Not all are pushing back. Being one of them, I know a handful of us may be pushing back, for some reasons somewhere, but not all and the ones pushing back are doing so because they are unable to see the larger picture – they are trying to generalize their specific problems into a larger ethnic divide. A divide that does not exist. Why they are doing it and why international media is pushing so hard on this intrigues me. I will be an idiot not to know that all of this frenzy is connected with the movement created by Manzoor Pashteen – Well he is the poster boy, face of it; only God knows who has created it, and who is pulling the strings from behind.
I have seen several places in KP and FATA when there was no law and order situation and I have also seen these areas after the war against terror had begun. Had the Army not fought against terrorism in FATA and KP? If not, every inch and centimeter of Mehsuds and Mohmands and Khattaks and Yousafzais and Wazirs and Afridis would all have been dead by now – at least most of us.
So, I am amazed at this so-called movement of Manzoor Pashteen that has arrived to stir emotions when peace is returning. What intrigues me the most is that he – in all his public gatherings, from January till May – has been talking about how the Army mistreated Pashtuns at check posts, how land mines were not removed, how people have mysteriously disappeared (although I don’t deny any of that – these things have happened, may be even more problems exist than we know of at this stage) but this “Che Guvara” never mentioned to his audiences that he had already approached the ISPR – which we all now know through media – to have a talk with the Army officials and issues were being resolved.
Moreover, what I find even more suspicious is that, where is he getting the funds for all these huge public gatherings? If we take a look at a political gathering (Jalsa) of PTI or PMLN, they have to spend millions of rupees just to manage the stage, lights, chairs, barbed wires to make separate enclosures etc and organize a gathering. They have to arrange transport for the crowd to be gathered and if people are coming from other cities then their stay and food is another huge expense. Then there are crowd managers as well, who are to be paid for gathering people from their cities, villages, districts, etc. Who is doing all this for our Che Guvara? Who are the PR managers who have started the stunt of his “red cap” being marketed? Are we being made to believe that all this is spontaneous? Are we idiots or what?
While Manzoor Pashteen is making videos of his devotees carrying red boxes and collecting the charity for Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’s public gatherings, (I would like to know how much did they collect and how much did they spend?), if he reveals the real source of funding that would be great, for I know for sure that millions cannot be raised by unknown people holding red boxes – and only the recent jalsa at Swat would have cost serious millions.
Like Swat, these gatherings are mostly organized in the cities which aren’t even affected by terrorism or army operations severely. Mardan wasn’t very much affected by the TTP or army operations. Similarly, a few other gatherings of PTM were also organized in the areas which were not as such affected by Taliban or army operations against them. Therefore, my next question is that, if this is a right’s movement for Pashtuns of South Waziristan or even the whole of Pakistan then what were the Afghan refugees exactly doing in these PTM rallies?
Manzoor Pashteen says that Pashtuns are dying and no one is paying attention to us but did the whole nation not pay attention and not stand with Naqib Ullah Mehsud’s family when he was murdered? The whole nation stood for Naqib Ullah Mehsud just like it stood for Zainab. A young boy Intezar Ahmed, 19 years of age, was also killed in those days in Karachi and it was a shocker too. But in all those killings, ethnicity was not the issue. Media and public reacted to the tyranny and sense of injustice. TTP killers did not choose their targets for their ethnicity; they were equal opportunity offenders who killed us all for impact, and if anything they killed, slaughtered and maimed Pashtuns most of the time. This war was not about ethnicities – someone is trying to bring “ethnicity” into it, and I have a horrible feeling that Manzoor Pashteen is merely a poster boy for those large interests that stand behind all this.
Manzoor Pashteen complains for not being given the media coverage but the coverage given to him and the PTM by the international media is phenomenal; it has never been given to anyone or any movement in this country before, ever. Countless times, thousands of us have walked on streets in protests in 2014, against Nawaz Sharif’s election riggings – Western media was least interested.
I am not at all saying that the check posts and landmines are not problems or that detentions, disappearances or even extrajudicial killings may not have happened in South Waziristan or that greater funds are not needed for constructions of houses and shops that got demolished. But looking at everything – especially the sudden interest of western media – I suspect, the agenda of Mr. Pashteen – our self-styled Che Guvara – is not to provide the Pashtuns with their rights but something else.
When we see Manzoor Pashtun being supporting by Mehmood Achakzai and his lieutenants, the situation starts to become clear. Achakzai is a man who still says KP belongs to the Afghans. Sure! It did belong to the Afghans but now it belongs to Pakistan and it will always stay that way. If ever, God forbid, the dream of the United Afghan – Lar o Bar, yo Afghan – of Ashraf Ghani and Mehmood Achakzai (and their financiers) ever comes true, then Peshawar will dominate and not Kabul. This is because Peshawar kept progressing with time and Kabul despite billions being poured in by its US sovereigns, it still cannot function without US presence. Do Pakistani Pashtuns want Afghan ID cards or is it the other way round?
Written by: Shiffa Yousafzai