Analysis & Opinion

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement And The Responsibility Of The State Of Pakistan

An Italian philosopher Gramsci in his book “Prison Notebook” in which he explains that there are two ways of gaining hegemony discussed the subject of hegemony for the first time: use of power by political society by force and use of power by civil society by discourse ultimately resulting in spontaneous consent. The latter technique of hegemony is for more sophisticated as it transforms the mindset of the masses. It can be correlated to the concept of fifth-generation war, which won’t feature armies, militancy or clear ideas. It will be what U.S. Army Major Shannon Beebe, the top intelligence officer for Africa, calls a “vortex of violence,”. a free-for-all of surprise destruction motivated more by frustration than by any coherent plans for the future. 5GW fighters may win by tarnishing the image of a traditional military might. These fighters win by not losing, while a combating force may lose by not winning. The battlefield will be something strange – cyberspace, or the thickly populated urban areas, or the banking systems, YouTube or any other platform of social media. The mission will be instilling fear, and it will succeed. They’re opportunists, intent only on destruction. So how do you beat a fifth-gen enemy? By not fighting, first of all rather ending the vortex of violence in a particular region means alleviating the conditions of human beings that create these insecurities across state borders. In other words, focus on economic development, humanitarian assistance and communication, with M-16 or Al-Khalid tank in sight. This is how success will vary inversely to exported violence.

State of Pakistan has been facing dual curse in recent history. It has asserted itself on non-state or extra-state actors of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as well as Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and resultantly the nuisance has subdued. However, state needs to put its foot down in certain other areas as well, most prominent being the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement or the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM). PTM leadership apparently distances itself from openly taking anti-state stance but they have adopted an anti–Army stance through a sophisticated campaign. They do not offer any proof but constantly allege national institutions for terrorism as part of their propaganda. Although their sources of funding are dubious yet they carry out regular demonstrations against state policies. These mysterious elements do not engage in dialogue but raise slogans of fighting for Pashtun cause. If TLP was creating a malediction in the name of religion, PTM is doing similar thing in the name of ethnicity. Why should the PTM leadership not face similar consequences for creating another imprecation against Pakistan and its institutions?

The activists of PTM are using new media as domain of public sphere to poison the young minds by means of baseless allegations against the state and its institutions. The trend is clearly visible from the speeches made by the PTM leadership as well as from their social media campaign tells it all about their propagated stance.  PTM and her social media supporters are pitched against the Government and the state institutions, trying to create a wedge between people and national institutions. Supporters of the PTM have a large number of Afghans settled in KP as well as abroad. These people frequently hold secret meetings in their inland and out of country hideouts. International media led by VOA, BBC, Mashaal and Deewa Radios as well as Indian outfits support their social media campaigns. Understandingly, Indian and Afghan Medias are actively projecting PTM with full force. The welcome accorded to Mohsin Dawar, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan  and a leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement during his recent visit to the US also speaks a lot, the government of Pakistan needs to take notice of it as during his interaction at Stimson Centre he clearly said the PTM objective was to defeat Pak Army strategic game in KP and the moment their strategic game is defeated, things will settle down.                        

State of Pakistan has so far been exercising caution in dealing with PTM to avoid any civil unrest in the country but the Line of PTM agitation suggests that they want bloodshed to revitalize their narrative, which lost its strength after FATA’s merger with KP. The leniency of the government have encouraged the PTM miscreants and they are constantly provoking state institutions for a physical response. They need to understand that it is the responsibility of the state to protect the life, dignity, income and other basic rights of its citizens from all ethnicities including Pashtuns. However, spreading anathema and mayhem can never be in the interest of the people of Pashtun belt. Diffusing hate against other segments of population and state institutions can only serve the interests of the enemies of Pakistan. To nip the evil in the bud, it is time now to take PTM to the task by adopting legal course of action against it under sedition charges. The government of Pakistan and Army has been continuously asking the leaders of PTM to negotiate on their lawful demands but on the contrary PTM response to a recent press conference by DG ISPR has been very venomous and has singled out Pak Army and ISI. Sources claim that PTM network is thriving on the resources provided by its foreign and domestic sponsors.

 

It seems that the nefarious agenda of PTM revolves around the dead issue of Pashtunistan as the slogans and the motivation behind the PTM are based on this foul narrative. Pakistan should seriously take it up in the peace talks on Afghanistan and bury it forever as it is against its national integrity and factual reality.

One wonders where this syndrome of PTM will take us. Patriot Pashtun leaders with wisdom will have to come forward to help stabilize the situation. The state of Pakistan should also be vigilant about Pashtun ethnic political parties, which find their vicious dream of Pashtunistan, re-energized in PTM slogans thus providing manpower to PTM shows. To make a problem worse, strangely, displaced persons returning from Afghanistan are found actively supporting the PTM shows. Similar support is coming from across Pak Afghan border in shape of finance, propagation, social media and publications which need to be raised up with Afghan Government vehemently.

Pashtuns of Pakistan for themselves have seen the devastations of the war and the way their armed forces stood for their protection. They are being hijacked through narration of individual tales, songs and poems centered on ethnicity. They understand that the major element rendering support to TTP led terrorism was from their own lines. How can the PTM falsify the brutalities of Baiutullah, Hakimullah and Fazlullah?

To encounter the menace of PTM the way forward is to espouse some short term and long-term measures framing a counter narrative. In short-term measures the peaceful and law abiding civil society of Pakistan should be taken on board. The government should identify genuine demands of PTM and take action on priority reviewing if support of the group has dwindled or expanded; during the course, rejection of unrealistic demands is important. ISPR-the media periphery of Pak Army may conduct visits of different factions of civil society and opinion makers to show casework done by Army and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in Tribal districts. Necessary measures should be taken to deny proliferation of PTM like narrative in Baloch youth and own academia. Stick and carrot policy can also be a way forward and vilification of the PTM leadership in an appropriate way may be continued on logical grounds as their character weaknesses and foreign linkages need to be exposed with solid proofs and evidences with effective media campaigning so that they cannot find their roots in public. Similarly, support by liberals for their vested interests also needs exposure. There is contrast between their appearance and reality in context of their old stance on TTP when (previously) FATA and KP were facing terrorism vis a vis their new stance. There is also need to promote Political Measures in Perception Domain by holding Jirgas of Mashran (meetings of tribal nobles) from affected areas to discuss the demands through parallel forums; role of elders needs more activation in pacifying the situation. Further the policy projection about Afghan Refugees should be made viable and clear. The dirty politics of PKMAP, JUIF and ANP dissidents for their consistent denial of Mainstreaming of FATA, in the past is also questionable. ANP being the mainstream political party should stay away from PTM agenda as its politics can be eclipsed otherwise in the days to come.  

In Pakistan, bashing of Armed forces and Intelligence Agencies has become a common trend as part of 5th generation war which needs to be checked at all levels, taking help from existing laws and constitutional provisions as well as taking cue from other countries. There is hell of contrast between security situation in Afghanistan with that of KP and we need to learn as to which elements are targeting the Pashtuns in Afghanistan? Intriguingly, we never heard of PTM talking against US, NDS, RAW and Afghanistan Government for killing Pashtuns despite the fact that ISIS backed by HIAs is killing Pashtuns in Afghanistan but PTM or its Afghan supporters are not voicing concerns on Pashtun Genocide. Why the dichotomy? Can PTM hold a Jalsa for Pashtun protection in Kabul; after all President Ghani has supported PTM? The beguiled factions of Pashtun should know that the improved security situation in KPK is in ultimate interest of Pashtuns as well for the Afghan refugees. Pakistan has always wished peace in Afghanistan in its national interests so that Pashtuns are defended and Afghan Refugees can go back safely. Conflicts and tensions are like a zero-sum game benefitting none of the parties of conflict, take for example the Sri Lankan case study. Sri Lanka suffered from same phenomenon after it defeated Tamil Tigers in 2009. The moment Sri Lankan Army took control of the area previously controlled by the Tamil Tigers, a campaign against the government was launched to put it on the defensive. Attention from Indian and RAW’s role was diverted through a sophisticated campaign on missing persons and human rights violations blaming Sri Lankan Army. Tamil Diasporas launched move in the west and the Indian government. Instead of celebrating victory, the Sri Lankan government had to justify the civil war it won against the terrorist LTTE. Pakistan Army has cleared FATA and other parts of its territory from the terrorists with huge sacrifices and the rogue elements like that of PTM are doing the same as was done in case of Sri Lanka. They should not be taken lightly, our security forces should identify their foreign linkages, and sponsors and this nexus should be dealt with iron hands. Intervention is also required to identify moral support to PTM by ANP, PMLN SMT and other so-called liberals.

To pursue the long term measures implementations of reforms and mainstreaming of old FATA should be expedited on war footing basis. Use of power of civil society by discourse through engagement of academia, targeting all sub-nationalities all over Pakistan with permanent penetration should be ensured. The state should also develop Strategic Digital Media capability to affect perceptions at mass scale (within and outside Pakistan) besides enhancing Soft Power footprint in Afghanistan. Reorientation of CPEC projects is also mandatory to maximize benefit for KP and Baluchistan, providing alternatives for economic development, as tribal areas, economic life line based on informal trade is squeezed due to border management of Pak-Afghan border. Displaced people should be re-settled and economically supported for at least next five years, integrating in the mainstream. FATA mainstreaming has to be executed by dedicated civil service, Army and a strong Political leadership. Education, Health and other social development sectors need to be managed for developing state of the art facilities. In perusal of these long term measures exploration of minerals and establishment of cottage industry should be encouraged in the underprivileged regions. Further, Modern agriculture technology can be adopted to help exploit the agriculture potential (Dry Fruits, Olives etc). Last but not least making old FATA a tourism hub within KP by building infrastructure and maintain law and order situation can be a viable solution for redresser of unemployment issues and sustainable peace in the area. There is also dire need to improve strategic communication network in these areas.

To conclude on a note of optimism, Pakistan cannot allow chaos at a time when it is in the process of gaining politico-economic stability, if PTM crosses the red lines, it has to follow the same trajectory as of MQM and TLP, because there is no going back by the state. The PTM syndrome calls upon the state to step forward, take responsibility and pacify the conflict in a prudent manner before it is too late.


The writer Masroor Ahmed is an International Relations’ Scholar and is currently working as Deputy Director in Prime Minister’s Office, Pakistan. His Area of specialization is Regional Conflicts and Security.