Monday, 16 April 2018
I am Pashteen - Gul Bukhari’s article which wasn’t published in The Nation today
I am Pashteen - Gul Bukhari’s article which wasn’t published in The Nation today
Editor’s note: The following article by Gul Bukhari could not published by The Nation today for discussing Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. However, we at Naya Daur believe that the article does not criticise any state institution but is an attempt to address the misconceptions about PTM and therefore must reach the audience.
General Bajwa’s comments on PTM
It is astonishing that the country’s military leadership has alluded to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement as ‘engineered’, with foreign connections. On Thursday the army chief said that ‘engineered protests’ will not be allowed to reverse the gains of counter-terrorism operations and cautioned the nation against forgetting sacrifices of the ‘real heros’, regretting that ‘no sooner had peace returned to FATA than a movement was started’. For the second time in a week on Saturday, the army chief again alluded to the movement as a ‘hybrid war’ being waged on Pakistan to internally weaken the country, but also noted that ‘the enemies were failing to divide the country on the basis of ethnicity and other identities.’ Both times he neither named the PTM nor its leaders.
Setting aside the noise and obfuscation surrounding the movement, first one need only look at the demands of the movement, asking for the restoration of the same fundamental rights that most citizens of other provinces enjoy. Manzoor, and the other leaders, ask to produce in courts of law persons made forcibly missing; they ask for a life of dignity – to not be humiliated for hours at military check-posts while commuting; they ask for their area to be cleared of landmines that are still killing and maiming them; they ask not to be collectively punished for crimes by unknown persons; and they ask for the killer of Naqeebullah Mehsood to be brought to justice. To bring to life the nature of their demands, the leaders of the movement are telling stories of human tragedy in every other household of FATA, stories that earlier remained hidden from view because of a lack of access to the media in FATA.
Support from Afghanistan?
How such demands can be engineered by foreign forces is beyond comprehension. Turned on its head, such statements would imply that the enemies of Pakistan want its citizens to have a life of peace and dignity, but the state does not. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Do we Pakistanis not sympathise with and support the Kashmiris in India? Does that make the uprising in Indian held Kashmir engineered by Pakistan? No it does not.
However, if the statement is in reaction to the sympathy the movement has found among Afghan Pashtuns and in others around the world, then the reaction should itself be analysed with common sense. Firstly, the people of FATA have tribes and families living across the Durand Line and would find natural sympathy and empathy by a people who have lived with similar horrors of war for decades. The support and sympathy are natural, not born out of enmity for the Pakistani state. I would urge the establishment to also consider this: do we Pakistanis not sympathise with and support the Kashmiris in India? Does that make the uprising in Indian held Kashmir engineered by Pakistan? No it does not. Do we not lend moral support to the Palestinians, or to the Rohingya in Burma? Are those not natural and human reactions of horror and sympathy? They make not the intefadahs engineered by Pakistan!
We love our country as much as you do
Expressions of support for the PTM have come from across Pakistan. To name but a few, is Imran Khan, a Pashtun, also playing in foreign hands in asking for justice for the people of FATA? Is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, a Sindhi son of the soil, also an enemy of the sate of Pakistan? Am I, a Punjabi, a part of the ‘hybrid war’ being waged on Pakistan? Or are Babar Sattar and Raza Rumi, also Punjabis, all ‘anti-state’ elements? Are senators Afrasiab Khattak, Syed Ali Raza Abidi, Mushahid Husain Saiyid waging war on the country? No, Sir, we all love our country and our people. We want peace, education, dignity, and security for all our countrymen and women. If wanting this for Pakistanis is treason, then we are traitors.
At one level or another, every ethnicity and most Pakistanis have felt the blow of violation of their fundamental rights.
I would also urge the establishment to consider how members of the Tehreek Labbiak Ya Rasool Allah are ‘our people’ to be engaged with, and at the cost of paralyzing the government of Pakistan, while PTM’s peaceful protestors merely asking for fundamental rights are foreign agents not be allowed to protest?
PTM not dividing but uniting Pakistan
To address the concern that the PTM is dividing the country on ethnic lines, I would assert that to the contrary, the movement is uniting ethnicities because of human empathy which rises above differences of ethnicity, cast or creed. The voices of support belong not just to the Pashtun, but also to the Punjabi, Mohajir, Sindhi and Baloch. Another reason the sympathy and support cuts across ethnicities is that the demand for fundamental rights also resonates with the rest. At one level or another, every ethnicity and most Pakistanis have felt the blow of violation of their fundamental rights.
Dismal state of freedom of speech in the country
Take the right of free speech. Almost everyone who has dissented has seen their right being violated either by being muted, blacked out, by threat or by death. Journalists are beaten and killed in this country for doing their duty, no matter their ethnicity. Take the right to information. As we speak the largest news group is blacked out in most parts of the country, without explanation or cause. Take the right to security. Punjabi bloggers were forcibly disappeared and tortured before being released mysteriously. Take the right to education. Universities are made to cancel events meant for their students to listen, to think and to debate.
Then take it as good news Manzur Pashteen and his movement is uniting the people of Pakistan like never before. And the reasons are both sympathy and empathy.
The criticism on army
If what rankles is slogans of ‘ye jo dehshat gardi hai, iss ke peechay wardi hai’, then what is needed is wisdom and courage to not only understand what is meant by it, but also to acknowledge the people’s anger at the tragedies they have suffered at the hands of state policies. It should not be hard to do so, given that Pakistan army’s own generals, generals Musharraf and Hameed Gul to name two, have stated that the military amassed religious militants in FATA as a tool of foreign policy.
Who does not know this? For decades the people of FATA have paid with their lives for the militants and then the subsequent war imposed on them. People across the rest of Pakistan have also paid with their lives, but not in as great numbers.
Those soldiers were ours too
The ‘real heroes’ are indeed heroes. Not a single man or woman of any ethnicity can forget their sacrifices. We are all deeply grateful to them. But the heroes and victims are not either, or. The fact that our military soldiers and officers lost their lives in fighting the same militants the institution once planted on our soil, does not negate the suffering of the people. Both are true and real, both need to be acknowledged for healing to take place. We weep as much for our fallen soldiers and officers as we do for the civilian casualties of self-harming policies of the state.
In fighting the militancy, human rights abuses were also committed. Those too need to be acknowledged and ceased for healing to take place. The demand for ceasing of those violations is all there is to the PTM, which many of us now see not just as the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, but as the Pakistan Tahafuz Movement. The state should engage with the movement, instead of accusing it without evidence. By and large, the citizenry is now cynical of such accusations because of the jaded use of such tactics for seventy years.