Pakistani policemen escort an arrested founding member of an ethnic Pashtun movement Alamzeb Mehsud (C face covered) at a court in Karachi on January 22, 2019. - Pakistani authorities on January 21 arrested a founding member of an ethnic Pashtun movement on terrorism charges and for making anti-government speeches, police sources said. (Photo by Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP)

Regardless of whether or not the non-violent and peaceful movement launched by Pakistan’s Pashtun tribes a couple of years ago is on the right path, it is undeniably doing something important.

The state plays a key role in determining whether someone is a “hero” or a “zero.” Let me explain with reference to the example of Dr Abdus Salam. He has never truly been recognized in Pakistan for his services to natural sciences, but he is held in high esteem internationally. Look at the case of the far-right cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi. He was made a hero of sorts during the Faizabad dharna. But where is he now?

The PTM’s demands

The PTM’s young members came of age during the US-led and Pakistan-backed war against terrorism. These injured and psychologically affected youngsters require the full attention of the government. However, the government and national media remain quiet on the subject.

The main demand of the PTM is the elimination of extrajudicial killings and abductions. Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring Pashtun model, was murdered in January 2018 in a fake police encounter in Pakistan’s southern seaport city of Karachi. Later, Tahir Dawar, a decorated police officer from Waziristan, was abducted and brutally murdered. The case remains unsolved. In February 2019, the killing of the PTM’s central leader, Ibrahim Arman Lune, further strengthened the movement. However, the government and the mainstream media have largely ignored the crime. This is a shameful situation in a “democracy” with a “free press.”

DG ISPR’s conference

The director-general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asif Ghafoor,  speaking at a conference on April 29, said the PTM’s time was up. He accused the PTM of being funded by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).  Making accusations and labeling people is easy in Pakistan. For instance, Mulana Fazul Rehman, the JUI’s chairman, has regularly accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of being an agent for Israel and India.

PTM-PPP meeting

Reportedly, a PTM delegation led by Mohsin Dawar, a member of the National Assembly), met the chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Bilwal Bhuto Zardari, and former Pakistani president Asif Zardari. The PPP leadership emboldens and supports the PTM as it makes demands regarding democracy and human rights. It’s crucial here to note that both Bilawal and Asif are already the subjects of corruption cases at the National Acountantability Bureau and the Supreme Court. The PPP’s leaders perceived that the establishment fabricated cases against them. The PPP may use the PTM to shield itself against court decisions and mollify the establishment.

State failure

The Pakistani state has failed to give fundamental rights to its citizens. Last month, 20 people were killed in a terrorist bomb attack targeting the Hazara community in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. Leaders of the Hazara community, whose members mainly belong to Islam’s Shia sect, say it is a victim of genocide. However, the mainstream media is hesitant to inform the public about the victimization of the community.

Constitutional solution

The use of the military against the PTM may further exacerbate the tense relationship between the state and the Pashtun community. Therefore, a solution must be found in the political arena.

The ruling PTI and the opposition parties must facilitate talks between the military and the PTM. The PTM’s constitutionally legitimate demands should be addressed. The fundamental norms of justice and equality must be assured for every section of society.

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Irfan Khan

Irfan Khan has written for various media outlets including CGTN, Daily Times, The Nation, Modern Diplomacy, Geopoliitca.ru, Eurasia Review, and Times of Israel. He mainly focuses on the Middle East, South Asia, the new emerging world order and human rights.

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