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PTM: Towards a new awakening among the Pashtuns

Bharat, on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, need to support Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for the basic human rights of the common people of Pashtun, and other movements in Pakistan which are based on ethnic and regional nationalism, including  movements in Gilgit Baltistan, Sindh, and Balochistan writes Neeru Singh Gyani

The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is a Pakistani civil society group that advocates for better rights for Pakistanis Pashtuns, and particularly in the country’s tribal belt
The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is a Pakistani civil society group that advocates for better rights for Pakistanis Pashtuns, and particularly in the country’s tribal belt

New Delhi: "You have thrown us to the wolves” These were the last words said by Baccha Khan, to Gandhi during the partition. During the Partition of Bharat, Nehru Jinnah had failed in its policymaking for designing of constitutional rights for Pashtuns. Baccha Khan or Badshah Khan or Abdul Gaffar Khan was a Pashtun Independence Activist who worked to end the rule of the British Raj in colonial Bharat. A close friend of Mahatma Gandhi, Bacha Khan was nicknamed Sarhadi Gandhi ("Frontier Gandhi"). who never wanted to be a part of Pakistan territory during Partition.

Though born and bred in a region infamous for its warring tribes and history of blood feuds— Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP or modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), that borders with Afghanistan—Khan was a staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi and his principle of non-violence. This love for ahimsa (non-violence has strongly opposed the partition of Bharat, while many Pashtuns were willing to work with Indian politicians, many other Pashtuns were sympathetic to the idea of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims following the departure of the British. Accused as being anti-Muslim, Khan was physically assaulted in 1946, leading to his hospitalization in Peshawar. North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which was a province of British India, was an important piece of land which was deliberately given to Pakistan when even the majority of people were not ready to become a part of Pakistan. It was during partition Gandhi-Nehru’s betrayal to Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan which led to the massacre of thousands of Pathans and the entire NWFP went into the clutches of Pakistan.

From the 1950s and onwards, some Pakistani Hindus from Peshawar and surrounding areas moved to Bharat, settling chiefly in Amritsar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Firozpur, as well as in Delhi, Rajasthan and other places across India. They are known as Pathans of Kashmir, Rohilla, Pathans of Uttar Pradesh, Pathans of Bihar, Pathans of Gujarat, Pathans of Rajasthan, Pathans of Madhya Pradesh, and Pathans of Tamil Nadu.

We have Bollywood stars, Prithviraj Kapoor, the progenitor of Bollywood's Kapoor family (along with his sons Raj, Shammi, and Shashi Kapoor)also of Punjabi descent; his cousin, Surinder Kapoor (father of Anil Kapoor) and film producer FC Mehra, Tandoori chicken, which was popularised in Bharat by Kundan Lal Gujral, Who are We. Hindu Pathans include the Punjabi origin independence activist Bhagat Ram Talwar and union minister Mehr Chand Khanna.

In Bharat, very few people know about the ethnic group in Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). And barely people know that the Pathans of Afghanistan originally known as the Pashtuns. The name Pathans were given to them by the Britishers during the war. Since the past 70 years of Congress rule Pashtuns have never been heard of in India.

In Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA provinces along with the tribal areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan border the Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group in Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and have been the target of violence at the hands of both Taliban and Pakistan military for 20 years. 

What is the current situation of the Pashtuns in Pakistan? What is Pashtun Tahafuz Movement? Recently, an enlightening international webinar on the topic called Identity Crisis of Waziristan (Pashtun Tahffuz Movement) was organized on Sunday by the Forum for Awareness of National Security. Many well-known personalities took part in this webinar. Bharat is a country which was never born and it exists right from the beginning, but Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Jammu- Kashmir was born in 1947. Patron of RSS wing Forum for Awareness of National Security Indresh Kumarji said at beginning of Seminar He added “The PTM movement is a human rights movement where the human rights are crushed and they have been fighting it since the independence of India. From the border of Afghanistan to Kashmir, Women are not safe and daughters and children do not feel safe.” Indresh Kumar, while exposing the misdeeds of Pakistan, said that both the government and the army together are taking very barbaric action on the people of Pashtun society. In Pakistan, the news of atrocities on the people of this community is now coming in front of the world.  

It is to be known that at present, lakhs of Pak Army personnel are deployed in 13 areas under Waziristan and continue to wreak havoc on the tribes living there. The current young generation of Pashtuns is recognizing and understanding the values of their freedom and human rights very well. Which means the entire Pashtun society stands together to protect its identity, challenging the Pakistani army with the slogan “Yeh Jo Dehshatgardi hai, iske peeche Vardi Hai." In 2019 the non-violent protest held in 22 cities against the atrocities of Pakistan Army is proof that the whole community together is upholding one voice for the protection of human civil rights of Pashtuns.

Speaker Aurangzeb Khan Zalmay, A scholar and activist Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Europe has asked Pakistan to stop killing of civilians in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Aurangzeb Khan Zalmay said they just want civilian rights and peace for families their women and children. Pakistan Army launched several operations in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with an aim to eradicate the Taliban and other terror groups. However, the residents blame the Pakistan Army for targeting civilians rather fighting the terrorists. Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement demands a Truth and Reconciliation Commission be constituted to investigate war crimes against Pashtuns. The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is a Pakistani civil society group that advocates for better rights for Pakistanis Pashtuns, and particularly in the country’s tribal belt. He pointed that in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA provinces along with the tribal areas of Afghanistan-Pakistan border the Pashtuns make up the largest ethnic group in Pakistan Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and have been the target of violence at the hands of both Taliban and Pakistan military for 20 years. They have been asking the state to afford basic human rights to tribal festivals and release missing persons who were illegally arrested or detained by security forces in the tribal areas during various military operations.

“Even though the PTM movement people want their land mines to be cleared, missing persons to be found, and the truth be known and demand their constitutional rights Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has become involved, calling the protests by PTM "engineered", implying they are following a hostile foreign agenda, although they appear spontaneous,”-  Aurangzeb Khan Zalmay, activist, Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM)

The movement led by Manzoor Pashteen gained a lot of traction in January 2018 and has now mobilized world over PTM is a strident critic of the Pakistan Army’s proxy war policy through jihadist groups and its extension, the shadow wars within the country. Just two years old what started as small protests as a political party, it is the only organized political force that now challenges the Pakistan Army openly. The 2007 formation of the Tehreek-e-Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) was a turning point for those living in the tribal areas. The Pakistan Army’s subsequent operations against the TTP, termed “the bad Taliban” because they targeted Pakistan by carrying out suicide bombings and other attacks across the country, were seen by Pashtun as stereotyping the entire community as terrorists.

The PTM anthem Da Sanga Azadi Da (of what use is this freedom) has resonated among the Pashtun. The party wants accountability from the most powerful institution in Pakistan for putting FATA in the eye of a storm that continues to rage in Afghanistan, for disappearances and the killings of civilians. Even on humanitarian grounds, their voices have never been heard. A common thread is a feeling that Pashtuns have been caught between the militants and the military for years. For years bomb blasts were done in the region from both sides of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Aurangzeb quoted how Pakistan has always used them as a war fodder. They never thought about the development of the people in the area. The courts are being held by the Military in Pakistan. Banks have held by the Military in Pakistan. Many common people were killed indiscriminately to protect the Taliban movement.

PTM is a strident critic of the Pakistan Army’s proxy war policy through jihadist groups and its extension, the shadow wars within the country. Aurangzeb criticized the fact that PM Imran Khan recently quoting that terrorist Osama bin laden as Shaheed. “Even though the PTM movement people want their land mines to be cleared, missing persons to be found, and the truth be known and demand their constitutional rights Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has become involved, calling the protests by PTM "engineered", implying they are following a hostile foreign agenda, although they appear spontaneous,” quotes Aurangzeb.

"The Pashtuns are protesting for their basic fundamental rights, missing person and justice for those abducted, arrested and tried on false charges. They are also demanding a free and fair enquiry into extrajudicial killings by the Pakistan army in name of fighting terrorism. They are leading the nonviolent movement in various areas and the PTM is now joined by students youngsters women and gaining momentum all the world"- Ashish Shukla, Author

Ashish Shukla, an Indian author on Gio Politic and Terrorism, a PhD Scholar spoke on the topic, “The Military crackdown PTM analysis” and about the dominating Muslims of the subcontinent in the area. The founding fathers in 1947, Jinnah failed in its policymaking for designing of constitutional rights for Pashtuns. He highlighted how the tribal area of Pashtuns has suffered injustices for many years. The Pashtuns are protesting for their basic fundamental rights, missing person and justice for those abducted, arrested and tried on false charges. They are also demanding a free and fair enquiry into extrajudicial killings by the Pakistan army in name of fighting terrorism. They want the removal of landmines where innocent civilians are being killed they want an end to torture and atrocities done to them by Pakistan Army every day. They are leading the nonviolent movement in various areas and the PTM is now joined by students youngsters women and gaining momentum all the world.

Prateek Joshi, a scholar from Oxford University spoke on the topic, “Rise of Pashtun: deconstructing the Pashtun identity of Pakistan”. He spoke about how the military used the Pashtuns in the name of Jihad. In 1947, when Pakistan was created, Frontier Gandhi was a threat to dilute the movement in Pakistan. Nehru and Gandhi refused to give any attention to the efforts of Khan to prevent the partition. During this war of terror, around half the population, 15 lakhs people were unsettled in Pashtun’s tribal areas. The movement by Manzoor Pashteen in Waziristan has extended his popularity to other provinces too. He has brought about a strong change in the youth. Within the last 10 years, a change has started. The policy-related issues have now gained soft corners for the PTM. Prateek Joshi highlighted the historical link with Pashtun and to understand their culture, one should go back to the Qissa Khwani Bazaar Massacre wherein the Indian army soldier, Hawaldar Major Chander Singh Garhwal, (Garhwal Rifles) in 1930 refuse to open fire at the Pashtuns. He is a hero and should be remembered as such. The Pashtoon Tahffuz Movement PTM is now looking for regional support and moral support at the International Platform.

Bharat always believes in the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, ‘The World is One Family’. Hence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, we need to support  Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement for the basic human rights of the common people of Pashtun and other movements in Pakistan which are based on ethnic and regional nationalism, including movements in Gilgit Baltistan, Sindh, and Balochistan. The government of Pakistan has attempted to subdue these separatist Movement. The mask of hypocrite Pakistan needs to be removed and the true face of Pakistan the supporter of terrorism, dictatorship needs to be exposed to the world. It is also the need of the hour that the voice of Pashtuns is elevated by media, webinars talk social media so that world knows about the brutality of Pakistanis.

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Neeru Singh Gyani is a social & political activist. She can be found on Twitter here and the readers can also reach out to her on her eMail: neiru.singh@yahoo.com

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