Rise of Pashtun Nationalism: A Case Study of Tribal Areas
Pakistan is very significant due to its geo-strategic location in the region of South Asia which compels other states to expand their existing bilateral ties with the country. It’s geo-strategic pivot and the only Muslim Nuclear power in the region so it compels regional and extra regional powers to incorporate Pakistan on various regional issues such as terrorism and regional stability. Since the start of U.S. led War on Terror (WoT), the country is facing numerous challenges such as terrorism, economic crunch and above all insecure borders on both eastern and western fronts. In the last two decades, Pakistan has suffered a lot due to terrorism and extremism. The tribal area of Pakistan has witnessed the most devastation due to shared borders with war torn country, Afghanistan.
After the start of Afghan war, huge numbers of Afghan citizen migrated to the Tribal areas of Pakistan. This mass migration had provided the opportunity to some terrorist elements to get ingress in some tribal areas of Pakistan. To cope up with these terrorist elements, Pakistan Army has launched massive and stringent operation against the increasing terrorist activities which has destroyed social fabric and infrastructure of the area. However, operation also affected the local population which was forced to leave the area during the time of operation. After the completion of successful operation, Government of Pakistan and Army has not only re-developed the infrastructure but also provided assistance in rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons.
Despite acting indiscriminately and brutally against the banned outfits and other non-state actors, some countries and zealots organizations are deliberately creating political and economic instability in the country just to accomplish their political objectives. Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism which is emanating from the soil of other countries. Some hostile external intelligence agencies are also working against Pakistan’s interests. They are fuelling terrorism and extremism inside Pakistan and are also instigating nationalist elements inside the country to destabilize government and armed forces. Instead of condemning the interference of foreign agencies in Pakistan to for inciting nationalists against the state, U.S., EU, along with other human rights watchdogs are inserting pressure upon Pakistan to act against the non-state actors and raising concerns about human rights violations.
There are some religious and ethnic fanatics who are becoming the victim of anti-Pakistan narratives. Ethnic fanatics of Pashtun community in Pakistan are one of them. It is a fact that Pashtuns have suffered more due to terrorism and extremism especially after 9/11. However, Government of Pakistan is taking care of the rights and sacrifices of Pashtun community by developing infrastructure and giving employment opportunities to young Pashtun. There are a few Pashtun zealot groups who are involved in creating most venomous anti-Pakistan propaganda just to appease their handlers abroad. They don’t even know about the work being done by government of Pakistan to compensate Pashtun community who is victim of war against terrorism.
Since Pakistani government and forces are ensuring the rights of Pashtuns, a few numbers of Pashtun zealots -- who are settled abroad -- are conducting anti-Pakistan and armed forces seminars, conferences and rallies in various international countries with the help of external players. They label themselves as ‘true Pashtun’ and protectors of the rights of Pashtun community. They are taking slanderous approach towards Pakistani armed forces and intelligence agencies which is not a good omen as it will only serve the interests of anti-Pakistan elements. Pakistan is one of those countries where even minorities are enjoying freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Pakistan’s constitution has ensured the human rights of minorities. Then, how Pakistan can take actions against its own citizens and ethnic communities especially against those who are victim of terrorism and extremism? It is the responsibility of international community to stop usage of its soil for becoming cauldron of anti-Pakistan propaganda.
It is pertinent to mention that a so called ‘Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’ (PTM) who is projecting itself as custodian of the Pashtun ethnic community, is inciting people and their emotions against the state and security forces. Its leader is a graduate of Army Public School (APS) named Manzoor Pashteen who hails from Tribal areas of Pakistan. They are chanting slogans against Pakistan Army and its spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Some of the leaders of PTM are constantly in touch with anti-Pakistan elements who don’t wish to see stable and prosperous Pakistan. Government and armed forces of Pakistan have expressed their desires many times to sort out the legitimate concerns of PTM and other ethnic fanatics of Pashtun community. But, unfortunately, leadership of PTM has failed to sit with the concerned authorities to resolve the issues.
Nationalist elements/ movements are everywhere in the world. These are not only in Pakistan. For example in India, there are dozens of separatist movements and issue of ethnicity is active in various states due to the disparities created by Indian government to suppress the rights of lower caste and other minorities. Jammu and Kashmir is a visible example where Indian government and forces are operating illegally to suppress the rights of Kashmiri people. India is also using Kashmir Conflict for political point scoring especially at international forums to create negative propaganda against Pakistan. However, international community and human rights watchdogs are silent over these grave violations. Not India, there are also some other countries in the world where non-state actors are active and demanding autonomous state.
International collaboration is essential to eradicate extremism and these non-state actors from society. There should be a joint mechanism to stop activities of non-state actors. U.N and other organization must act against these groups to stop growing extremism. These actors will ultimately destroy the global peace.
In the case of PTM, Pakistan’s government and Army have expressed their desire for peaceful solution of the Pashtun issue. PTM should consider the option of dialogues to seek the solution of its legitimate concerns. Rallies, seminars and conferences are giving an opportunity to anti-Pakistan elements to carry out propaganda over flimsy ground. Rise of Pashtun nationalism is against the interests of both Pakistani state and Pashtun community. Due to the efforts of government and Army, tribal areas of Pakistan are now peaceful where people are enjoying peaceful environment. PTM should acknowledge the sacrifices of armed forces who devoted their lives to bring peace back in the Tribal Areas.