Spotlight on Afghanistan - PTM Relationship
On March 9, 2020, after the controversial presidential elections, Afghanistan swore in two presidents - the incumbent Ashraf Ghani and his arch-rival Abdullah Abdullah. For the inauguration of Ashraf Ghani, invitations were only extended to two Pakistani members of Parliament from the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, who hold no official designation. In fact, both of these members have been placed on the exit control list (ECL) after they instigated an attack on the Pakistani Army check post in Waziristan. Surprisingly, Afghanistan sent a special military helicopter in Pakistan to take the two PTM members. Prime Minister Imran Khan honoring the request of President Ghani, and to build confidence among Pakistan and Afghanistan, gave special one-time permission to both PTM members to travel across the border. This special permission was needed as people under court trials cannot travel outside the country as per the constitution of Pakistan.
During their tour, both MNA were accorded special protocol by Afghan intelligence agencies. They also met with former NDS chief, Amrullah Saleh, who is known for his anti-Pakistan ideology. These incidents added links to the already established Afghan-PTM support chain. PTM leaders like Mohsin Dawar have openly asked Afghanistan and the US army to come in Waziristan and fight against the Pakistan army as they want to fulfill the dreams of TTP, Indian Raw, and Afghanistan’s NDS.
Throughout the last year, PTM has tried to take advantage of any incident involving the Pashtun community, whether by twisting the facts or by taking advantage of post-truth politics in the country, to push their false narrative against Pakistan and its vital state institutions. PTM tried to play the Trojan horse game, but seeing the people of Pakistan not falling for this subtle approach, PTM has now come out openly as anti-Pakistan to gratify its foreign sponsors in India and Afghanistan.
PTM, which says it supports every Pashtun, has been silent about the several Human Rights reports that confirmed that the US and Afghan Army committed atrocities against half a million Pashtun civilians in Afghanistan. Additionally, you won’t be able to find any PTM statement against the ISIS or other RAW proxies responsible for the Pashtun genocide in Afghanistan. One has to wonder why only certain Pashtuns qualify for the PTM’s support?
Another important aspect, that is often ignored by PTM supporters, is the alleged links of PTM with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). PTM has repeatedly refused to condemn or even acknowledge the atrocities committed by the TTP. PTM has refused to admit that TTP, which accepted the responsibility, had indeed carried out the APS massacre of 132 school children in 2016. To this day, PTM leaders call APS attack an insider job in which the Pakistan army killed its own serving officer’s children. Yes, you read that right. That is exactly what PTM and its leaders have been saying despite several videos from TTP that confirmed the identities of attackers. And this is not it, whenever Pakistan’s state institutions conduct operations against TTP terrorists, PTM labels them as atrocities against innocent Pashtuns. Last year, counter-terrorism officials killed five terrorists in Peshawar who were planning suicide attacks against KP government ministers. PTM protested against the killings of these hard-core terrorists.
One only has to search for the PTM's name in a search engine to know why a small movement is being covered on such a grand scale in Afghan, Indian and international media outlets. Ronan Farrow, the diplomat turned journalist, in his book - War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence - describes this strategy of the CIA of using smaller rights groups in countries like Pakistan to pressurize them, and eventually acceding to the demands of Uncle Sam. Ronan describes how this strategy worked in Yugoslavia and Africa. Since then, the CIA has also found a new tool in the shape of social media. Where American state, with the help of American social media sites, can push forward their propaganda to malign and control other countries.
The Pakistani state has also realized what is being done to it. Therefore, it has been extremely flexible and has exercised extreme caution when dealing with the PTM. So far, PTM has refused several invitations from PM Imran Khan to present their grievances and their possible solutions through dialogue. Instead, PTM has constantly been enticing violence in order for state institutions to make a mistake that gives them a chance to use it as fodder for a fire they are trying to start in Pakistan’s improving economic and social situation.
PTM and its foreign sponsors need to acknowledge the fact that the security landscape of Afghanistan is shifting. Last month the US signed a peace deal with the Taliban after recognizing their role in Afghan society. This week saw the first wave of US troops leave Afghan soil as a direct implementation of that deal which Pakistan helped negotiate. There is a strong possibility of a unity coalition government in Kabul in near future, with the Taliban and all other major Afghan stakeholders, who want a peaceful working relationship with Pakistan, being a significant part of it. Therefore, PTM leadership -in order to work with both Pakistan and Afghan government for the prosperity of Pashtuns - needs to shift from a conflict-oriented ideology to a peace and development oriented one. Indeed, if one thing that history has taught us it is that conflict never leads to prosperity - only peace does.