“You do change our wrong image”

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The efforts changing the image of Pashtuns made by Pashtun’s Tahafuz Movement (PTM) is an eye-opener for Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership, who have been dealing with the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) as a strategic space rather than recognizing the genuine needs and rights of its masses, who had been in a war zone for 17 years.
RYWM Statement
 
The Tribal Areas have the lowest literacy rate in Pakistan, very few or no employment opportunities, poor health conditions, weak infrastructure including worse communication system. The normal Pakistani judicial system is not applicable in the tribal areas. The only road leading to justice is the office of the British – colonial era of political agent, or the outdated jirga system, under which tribal chiefs decide cases ranging from paltry crimes like theft and the land quarrel to blood warfare. Jirga justice has been used to justify cruel rituals such as “honor killings” and “swara” (giving a girl, irrespective of her age, to the aggrieved party to settle blood feud).
The only time that the Pakistani state has truly engage the tribal areas or its inhabitants was when FATA residents needed to fight Pakistan’s wars – 1948 fighting in Kashmir, the anti-soviet Jihad in Afghanistan, the strengthening and backing of the hardline Taliban militia in the early 1990s; or when providing a support base for the Taliban jihad in Afghanistan.
Decades of state neglect have inflicted immense damages on the lives of the tribal people. However, their worst suffering began following the overthrow of the Taliban regime after 9/11, since the US-led war on terror aided Pakistani elites.
Since 2001, the Pakistani military has launched 10 operations against militant strongholds in the region, recently in 2013 in North Waziristan. The offensives have displaced almost two million people, according to figures from the United Nations refugee agency and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, as homes, schools and hospitals have been turned into hideouts by militants and meager civic amenities have been destroyed.
The current movement, which took the name Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), formerly called the Mehsud Tafafuz Movement (MTM) is a social and popular movement, the second-largest ethnic group in Pakistan. [They] had enough in January, [when] a large crowd began protesting for 27-year-old shopkeeper Naqibullah Mehsud, brutally killed in a fake encounter by the Karachi police, who claimed afterward that he was a Taliban Militant. [This] seemed merely the latest in a long series of abuses carried out by the authorities against ethnic Pashtuns in Pakistan.
On January 26, 2018, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement organized a protest march starting from Dera Ismail Khan, passing through Lakki Marwat, Bannu Karak, Kohat, and Darra Sdam Khel, and reaching Peshawar on January 28. Then, after marching through Charsadda, Mardan, Swabi, and Tarnol, the march reached Islamabad.
They asked the government to set up a judicial inquiry for Naqeebullah as well as for all the other Pashtuns murdered extrajudicially in police encounters, to stop racial profiling of the Pashtuns in Pakistan, to bring 32000 Pashtuns missing persons before the court of law. [They also] asked the Pakistan Army to guarantee that they will not abduct or open fire on innocents in the Tribal Areas, stop collective punishment against entire villages and tribes or impose the frequent curfews on the movement of locals even after minor incidents. Also, to remove all landmines planted in the tribal areas and ask the Army to end the checkpoints. The Army in checkpoints [never] caught anyone, anytime in name of security, made him rooster (Morgha ban jao). The pamphlet distributed among protesters if Taliban have been routed [?] and there is no reason for security personnel to block them from entering their own villages in the name of security. [Sic.] However, this movement has achieved a lot, included the Supreme Court order to arrest the police officer that killed Naqeebullah.
As the protesters, in long marches and mass meetings, are delivering speeches and chanting slogans for the due rights of the tribesmen, hundreds more set an alleged Taliban office on fire in Dera Ismail Khan city, located in the periphery with South Waziristan. The Taliban group was accused of killing a young man from the Waziristan. In the highly charged environment, the tribesmen stormed a house allegedly used by the pro-government militia and set it on fire. Later, they were recorded on video chanting slogans such as “Death to good Taliban.” Good Taliban refers to those allegedly supported by the Pakistani authorities.
While the protests for justice and basic human political rights have generated a higher degree of awareness among the tribe people on the one hand, on the other it has also provided them a chance to shed the mantle of being pro-Taliban, pro-jihad, and extremely religious. After all, the misinformed world sees the hapless tribe people as the cause of the trouble. They are generally considered as the supporters of terrorism. The fact is that they are victims of terrorism.

The PTM and political parties

The Pashtun resistance movement in Pakistan that saw a enormous participation by the tribal youth, indicates that young Pakistanis are changing what they want.
In order to hold political rallies in Pakistan in general and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular, Bourgeoisie political parties depend on the Khans (landlords) and contractors to bring people from their neighborhoods and pay for their transport. The PTM organised a successful rally without depending on landlords and contractors and instead ran a fund-raising campaign among the youth and professional class, appealing to the Pashtun Diaspora.” [The PTM] attracted the disillusioned Pashtun youth, including a sizable number of young women – who were mainly associated with the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) – across the country and abroad. It has also become popular among the emerging professional and middle-class of Pashtun society.
Even the leaders from PTI (Pakistan Tareek-a-Insaf) and ANP openly spoke that the Pashtuns Tahafuz Movement would turn into a political party with the passage of time, and Manzoor would lead it as an unregistered political party. They [PTI] met people door to door, refused to support PTM and even disallowed its members to participate in the movement, although these parties included PPP organized Rallies against PTM – yet the majority of these parties are workers who faithfully associate themselves with the philosophy of something for masses rights, have been enthusiastically participating in the movement. Other political parties and their leaders have been silent and they do not want to lose their vote bank by either rejecting or supporting PTM.
All this movement you see, it is pre-election mobilization,” Mr. Khan Chairman PTI and his wife said, referring to the national elections scheduled for July.
It doesn’t portend to become a genuine Pashtun uprising,” they added. “Political parties and other groups want to pick up issues that resonate with the public, and this march provides them a platform. This is just politicking.” Fooling masses as Bourgeois parties do during every mass movement.

Military leadership is hunched

Two propositions can be constructed from the military chief’s depiction of PTM in his speech. Firstly, mainstream media and the political leadership, who remained silent for days, were permitted to speak about PTM but in line with his portrayal. Secondly, his speech revealed the dual face of Pakistan Army who on the one hand viewed PTM as a threat to national security and on the other hand fulfilled some of their demands including the release of more than 200 men, clearing up of South Waziristan from landmines, issuing them NADRA cards and relaxation on military checkpoints. Fulfillment of these demands was also mentioned by the DG ISPR in his press conference a few days ago while calling Manzoor Pashteen as a “wonderful guy”. Even now military hired the workers to at hand with beverages to civilians on every checkpoint, and now many checkpoints are handed over to the Civil government.
During the meeting with Military leadership, the PTM representatives asked if the movement is a threat to national security by asking on the sorrow of thousands families whose beloved ones have been abducted, while [they were] still optimistic on their return. They called the PTI a threat to national security because the state does not have any justification for the whereabouts of the missing persons.
Realistically, labeling an oppressed group negatively is no justice. Every member of PTM is a national of Pakistan and they deserve equal and fair treatment. When we define justice as fair treatment, it exposes the oppressive and discriminatory behavior of many state institutions. Such demonstrations were already witnessed by the people before, particularly from PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and PAT (Pakistan Awami Tehreek,) and even from Khadim Hussain Rizvi (Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan). None of them was declared as a threat to national security, not even the many times that they sat on the capital of country. These demonstrations were given constant baking with huge media coverage, despite damaging state installations, obstructing passages and inflicting huge cost to national exchequer. Everyone from the mass knows that the military had given strong farewells with money to these parties after accepting their demands. This difference highlights the question of their patronage.

 

PTM leadership On April 8, 2018, spoke to Pakistan Army in Peshawar Mass meeting

Pakistan Army is one of the prime institutions of the state and it should be given proper honour and respect beyond all socio-economic, political and religious affiliations. But its past involvement in the proxy war, patronizing riotous groups in Afghanistan, interfering in political setup, and building pressure groups against the democratic governments are no more a secret.
Every strong army of a state is augmented by an invisible support and love by its citizens, but unfortunately it lacks in Pakistan. Singing national anthems and celebrating the independence and other days of national significance with great pomp and shows are the symbols of nationalism, but in reality is far different than that, and the PTM is one strong evidence. Nationalism or patriotism is not something that could be imbued into the citizens by force; it rather develops through justice and equality. Anti-state slogans usually emanate from the oppressed classes of the society, never by the bourgeoisie. The more justice is compromised on by the state or its prime institutions, the more it will get the oppressed organized.
In Pakistan, it is not unusual to declare an individual or group as traitors who resist such oppression, either written, verbally or physically, and the PTM is not an exception. Hassan Nasir, Bacha Khan, Habib Jalib, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Akbar Bugti, Asma Jehangir and even Fathima Jinnah, as well as many others that also received this title in their times. Were they really traitors or they were negatively labelled as traitors? Literally, whenever the military establishment felt threatened, it used the label of deviance.
Some analysts asserted that the Pakistan Army, which is a main player in Pakistan affairs after April 8, 2018,   (Peshawar mass meeting) became compel to say that they are in danger since 1971, [when it took place the] division between East and West Pakistan, giving birth to the country Bangladesh.
The Pakistani Army says it is now spending millions to repatriate displaced people, rebuild infrastructure and earn residents’ good will. But many residents still view the soldiers as occupiers, and militants continue to pose a threat with its help.

 

Mainstream Media’s Role

Despite the mainstream media’s silence, the PTM’s tremendous gathering in Peshawar on April 8 compelled many political and social activists, and even scholars, to express their sympathy for them. Social media has been the only source of their awareness and activism. The mainstream media attracted too much abhorrence from the common flock by showing disinterest in such mass mobilization. Their trust in the mainstream media is fast eroding and it has been the center for criticism on social media. This behavior of Pakistani media shows its biasedness and questions its freedom.
This is what the media is doing now: shifting the whole debate from a human rights violation by FATA to ‘anti-state’ slogans. This is a tool to curb its rising popularity and restrict the PTM from becoming a collective struggle.
Some say that giving the PTM a Pakhtun outlook and making it anti-establishment would further aggravate the situation. Well, this pacifist – rather sanguine, we would say – approach had always been like this, with people of FATA raising their voices peacefully (without criticizing the army,) but nothing has been achieved so far.
What makes PTM unique is its bold and unapologetic stance on the military’s abuse of civilian dignity. If it does not mention the military, then it would be no different from Jamaat-i-Islami, JUI-F, PPP or PTI, who speak about FATA but ignore naming security forces and their involvement in enforced disappearances.
PTM goes well beyond the Pakhtun issue now. It is an awareness campaign that challenges the deep state everyone knows exists. It has the potential to gather various oppressed groups on one platform. Some examples were its rallies in Quetta, where Balochis and Hazara Shias took part in huge numbers. Similarly, it could appeal to more people from Karachi as well as GB, Sindh, Punjab and Kashmir.

PTM Mobilizations to Mass Movements

This movement started from mobilization typically entail calling on people to participate in rallies, protests and other actions. But enough is enough – after more attacks, like in humanization, criminalization, calling fools, backward, fundamentalist Pashtuns, abducting and killing them. Now the mobilization is turning into a mass movement which pushes for dialogue and strategies among other communities and left wings groups.
This mass movement needs to determine keenly the ways in which people are mobilized, and in turn, because mobilizations must perennially consolidate and reinforce our efforts to build the movement across the country. The big and organized movement is the point for any mass mobilization that contributes to building and strengthening the power in its hand.
The movement has been following the above demands, which pressured the system to give concessions while it exposed the oppressive nature of the system, which should continue to take more broadly in society. This can make it more vulnerable to being easily pacified and having our demands easily recuperated. Also, when political consciousness is not in command of combativity, a mobilization can become self-defeating and even, in the final analysis, a gift to the state propaganda machine.

Leftists’ errors and needs

Some left groups are approaching a vanguardist mentality to avoid losing the lead in the front line of the movement, which is [their] worse attempt to bureaucratically control the mass movement […]. If this mass level structure rapidly becomes a front organization, the masses will abandon it, and it will degenerate into a head without a body.
We must avoid confusing to conceptualize our theoretical model and respect their relative independence. If we make the error of bringing hard discussion and instructions into mass level, this would have the consequence of depleting the mass levels, since the democratic structure for its views to manifest would no longer exist.
What they perceive as that these kinds of spontaneous mobilizations are usually short-lived, with limited demands. But this mobilization should be observed dialectically, on the relationship between combativity and political consciousness, because the participants have adequately defined the nature of the enemy, their demands and their long-term objectives. Also, political consciousness is in command of combativity.
If we all revolutionaries ought to save self- defeating of mass movement and combat against bourgeois propaganda machinery, then we do organize pro-movement mobilization in others areas of the country with full revolutionary zeal.

Well said

PTM and its sharp momentum raise many questions on the state policies.
First, their bold stance on raising the issue of missing persons and so bluntly raising slogans against Pakistan army and its prime agency shows the degree of violence committed to them.
Second, they have brought awareness to people on the adversarial policies of the state and Pakistan Army.
Third, they have exposed the law and order situation in FATA and the so-called progress that state agencies have achieved in the past, for more than one decade.
Fourth, they have removed fear from the hearts of the common people in expressing themselves and fighting for their rights.

Our appeal to all PTM activists

To build political friendship with the masses to define which mobilizations for reforms are a priority. These mobilizations are not a goal in themselves — they are tactical in nature and in content, and their goal is to constantly weaken the system and strengthen the revolutionary potential of the organized masses. These are perennial under capitalism.
To expose the fact that, at this stage of imperialism, capitalism has reached its peak and is reactionary to the core, and cannot reform itself. To make demands for reforming it is useless.
To participate in the construction of combative mass organizations, in a manner that takes into account their purpose in the present and future. In the pre-revolutionary stage, they act as instruments of struggle against exploitation and domination. In the post-revolutionary period, they will be instruments of power against the defeated capitalist class that is struggling to regain ascendancy.
The conceptualization of these mass organizations is not pre-determined but will unfold during the process of struggle. As instruments of struggle and power, they need to be constructed in forms that are highly democratic, if they are to be resilient and creative enough to challenge and defeat the dominant system. The underpinning and fundamental elements of power must be popular democratic structures and practice.
The masses must control all organized structures. Trust must be built between the revolutionaries and the masses. Accountability will be essential in theory and in practice.

An international appeal to all Friends and Comrades

Dear Friends and comrades, you know that this region has become a battlefield after imperialist strategically war on terror, and now it came under imperialist economical war due to (CPEC) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which has brought unrest to the masses. We have been tolerating for a long time, everywhere in the region, the bourgeoisie combinedly looting resources and imposing austerity plans on masses while making major profits.
This movement is not only against the national bourgeoisie, feudal lords and Establishment, but it is also starting to question imperialist institutions and corporation. Thus, it needs solidarity to bring these all forces down.
Down with imperialism!
Workers of the world, unite!    
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A new red ethnic cap – popularly known as Mazari cap – and the word ‘Pashteen’, a pronunciation of Pashtun in Mehsud dialect – became popular among the Pashtun youth – mainly because of PTM founder Manzoor Pastheen.
Men and women from Pakistan and Afghanistan are sharing their images wearing the cap to show solidarity with the PTM movement.
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement or Pashtun Protection Movement, was started mainly by young Pashtun activists who are demanding an end to what they say are human rights violations by authorities in the country’s tribal regions.

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