Manzoor Pashteen

In the 1870s a number of highly educated Russian women supported a populist revolutionary movement and established a new tradition of women’s active participation in politics, organizing study circles in all four corners of Russia. Advocating basic rights and struggling for social, political and judicial changes, such women significantly shaped the future of Russians in general and women in particular.

Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, was popular among those who revolutionized the Bolshevik movement and its political paradigms during the 1920 and 1930s.

There is a long list of influential women’s rights activists, writers, humanitarians and politicians who have helped change world history. Rosa Luxemburg of Germany, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt of the United States, Eva Peron of Argentina, Shirin Ebadi of Iran, Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, Asmaa Mahfouz of Egypt, Yulia Tymoshenko of Ukraine and Louise Weiss of France are among the most prominent.

The tradition of Pashtun women’s active participation in national movements is also somewhat revolutionary. Pashtun history is vivid when it comes to women’s role in resistance against colonial forces.

Pashtun women’s active participation was always at its most bold and militant when resistance against imperial forces was weakest. The mother of 18th-century Afghan King Mirwais Khan, Nazo Ana (Nazo the grandmother), King Ahmad Shah Abdali’s mother Zarghuna Ana (Zarghuna the grandmother) and the famous Malalai of Maiwand are scintillating examples.

Generally, patriarchy and cultural norms and values – the shackles of male chauvinism and supremacy – are barriers to women’s participation in political and democratic activities. Such participation is aberrantly imagined as a matter of honor and morality, completely futile thinking that depicts the Pashtun traditionalist approach toward women. The egoistic and patriarchal principles prevailing in Pashtun society further strengthen the authority of the male character to control the female gender through so-called questions of honor, morality and dignity.

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) opened a gateway to energetic and revolutionary women to fight for the Pashtun cause in Pakistan. The bitter experience of imposed war provided courage, strength, tolerance and a sense of struggle to highlight Pashtuns’ sufferings in the state of Pakistan. The active, organized and committed role of women in the PTM demonstrates that they have found deserving space in Pashtun society to express themselves and play a revolutionary role in the movement of resistance advocating the constitutional rights of Pashtuns in Pakistan.

The fresh wave of young Pashtun women’s active participation in the PTM is welcome. Women’s participation in politics will surely provide both soft and smart policymaking decisions in the PTM.

Undoubtedly, PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen needs women to support his campaign against insecurity in the Pashtun region. Along with other active Pashtun energetic women, Sana Ijaz and Wrranga Loni are  adding a new chapter of strength, courage and commitment to Pashtun women’s history of dedication and resistance.

Pashtun women
Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen, flanked by Sana Ijaz and Wrranga Loni. Photo: Handout

The exemplary and revolutionist activism of Sana Ijaz and Wrranga Loni have boldly demolished the tradition of stopping Pashtun women from actively participating in political and nationalist activities to defend the Pashtun nationalist cause in Pakistan.

Sana Ijaz, a human-rights activist and journalist based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, is a core member of the PTM and co-founder of a Friday study circle in Peshawar that focuses on security, political and social issues. She also focuses on women’s role in establishing peace and reconciliation, political and social activism and advocating women’s case of equal rights.

She writes for various newspapers and websites with a focus on women’s social, political and educational affairs. She has worked on the importance of entrepreneurship for women, promoting a culture of peace, countering extremist and radical religious ideologies, honor killing and gender-based violence.

Wrranga Loni is another young and energetic woman from the southern Pashtun belt of Pakistan. She believes in equal participation of Pashtun women in political and social hemispheres to establish a soft image of Pashtuns at the national and regional levels. She is a progressive political activist, writer and staunch supporter of political nationalism in the state of Pakistan.

Wrranga believes in constitutional supremacy and democracy as the ultimate way to ensure security and political stability in the country. Her open support of the PTM has opened a gateway to Pashtun women to join with male activists to support the nationalist cause for stability and prosperity.

Undoubtedly, during the last 40 years, Pashtuns have had bitter experiences of insecurity, religious fundamentalism, tribalism and traditionalism. Security and political scenarios since the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001, have significantly changed the entire environment in the Pashtun region, leading to a rise in social and religious extremism.

The rise of the Taliban and assassinations of top Pashtun tribal and political figures have brought Pashtuns to the brink of economic deterioration and political unrest. More than 45,000 Pashtuns have been killed in bomb blasts, suicide attacks and targeted killings since the 9/11 attacks.

The PTM is a movement of hope for all Pashtuns. Terrorism, jihadism, extremism, and social and political unrest have already sabotaged and shattered the entire Pashtun region. The so-called war against terrorism fought on Pashtun soil – in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – has seriously impacted the Pashtun community in Pakistan. The PTM demands peace and security for Pashtuns that is legal and constitutional in its nature.

Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen, head of the PTM, is the principal voice of war-affected Pashtuns. The support and active participation of Pashtun women will strengthen the PTM. And the ultimate success of Pashtuns also depends on Pashtun women’s support to the movement. Sana Ijaz and Wrranga Loni are torchbearers who are marching with young activists for the Pashtun nationalist cause and will surely motivate other women to support the PTM as a noble and peaceful cause.

The cause of demanding peace and security, clearing FATA of landmines, ending Pashtun stereotyping, and establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission profoundly depend upon women’s support of the PTM. Without any iota of doubt, their support can encourage young Pashtun activists to demand constitutional rights and privileges in Pakistan.

Rahim Nasar, an Islamabad-based security and political analyst, a PhD scholar, writes on regional security, political and strategic affairs with special focus on Central and South Asia. He tweets on @RahimNasari

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