AS Pakistan is only nuclear country in the Islamic world, hence, besides destabilizing it through terror-related attacks, US-led entities also continue propaganda campaign against the country to complete the Zionist-agenda. For the purpose, they have launched a controversial debate in Afghanistan—whether the term ‘Afghan’ designate, a ‘nationality or ethnic’ group. This controversy delayed issue of national identity card for people of Afghanistan for years. Influential ethnic groups of Afghanistan which are currently heading the government do not look at the word ‘Afghan’, a nationality for people of Afghanistan, but an ethnic group.
On the other side, history provides ample evidence that the word Afghan has been interchangeably used for Pashtuns. The people who initially inhibited in the south-east of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan, to the west of the Indus River in Pakistan are Pushtuns. The Pashtuns or Afghans primarily speak Pashto language and follow Pashtunwali code of conduct. They are primarily found in Afghanistan and Pakistan and form the world’s largest tribal society, today. Throughout the Indian subcontinent, they are often referred to as Pathans. Today, the Pashtun tribes with over 65 million people live in Pakistan, while approximately over 28 million people in Afghanistan and another 1.5 million or more live in Iran. There are 1.8 million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees who are living in Pakistan, a majority of which are Pashtuns.
As regards Pakistani Pashtuns, over 26 million live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 9 million in FATA believed to be and around 7 million in Karachi alone, 9 million in Punjab, 3 million in Sindh and 6.5 million in Baluchistan. The figure does not include the Niazi tribe of Mianwali who are also Pathans, but fewer speak the Pashto language. Undoubtedly, Pashtuns are very well knitted in Pakistani society and enjoy power positions in government, civil and military bureaucracy. They also enjoy vast connectivity due to inter-marriages with other ethnic groups. So, it is not difficult to grasp when Pashtun tribes suffer tyranny and ill-treatment in Afghanistan; a large number of Pashtuns and their friends are saddened all over Pakistan.
It is regrettable that Pashtuns in FATA are suffering due to drone attacks and Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) which is an outdated and cruel system of collective punishment. Hence, for the first time, they have desired to move away from the concept of “illaqa-e-ghair” (Strange Land) and to completely integrate into Pakistani state, including its legal system. However, the anti-Pakistan forces which always manipulate the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the pretext of Pashtuns are extremely worried over the new development in the FATA and KP. It is misfortune of the country that the current government of Pakistan is also showing apathetic and sluggish approach to the new development and is not meeting the demands of Pashtuns.
In fact, in Afghanistan, primarily Pashtuns are resisting American occupation and are, therefore, facing the wrath of the US-led NATO. Hence, in frustration, America and India which are in connivance with the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) are behind this new move to differentiate between a Pashtun or an Afghan in order to malign Islamabad. Besides, as part of the propaganda campaign, these hostile forces are using a few politicians and political activists and social workers to slow down integration of FATA into mainstream Pakistan. In this respect, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a noble student initiative which was launched in 2013 for the purpose of clearing land mines in Waziristan has been de-tracked. The movement rightfully protested the extra-judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud by the police force in Karachi. A long march followed by a sit-in in Islamabad was organized by the movement and the same was supported by many patriotic citizens of Pakistan. Nevertheless, later, key personnel of PTM started making radical speeches against Pakistan Army and its security agencies in Baluchistan.
Apart from the Afghan top political leadership, few crooks of Awami National Party (ANP) and ultra-liberals are also misleading Pashtuns. As part of the propaganda, anti-Pakistan speeches of PTM workers are also attracting wide publicity by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a United States funded organization. Another website Gandhara and Mashaal Radio are found cultivating suspicion between Pakistan military and Pashtuns. The real aim behind these sinister designs is to create a rift between Pashtuns and Pakistan Army. These internal and external hostile elements do not want developments in FATA, which can result into progress of their people in various fields. These elements want to continue the past system of the colonial era at the cost of Pakistan.
It is a good sign that in the budget 2018-2019, the government has proposed Rs 24.5 billion for FATA. To bring FATA in the mainstream, a ten-year FATA development plan with total outlay of Rs.100 billion has been approved. During 2018-19 Rs 10 billion are proposed to be provided. But, it is the right hour that without further loss of time, the government of Pakistan should immediately merge FATA with KP and implement FATA reforms. Moreover, the alleged killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud by Rao Anwar be immediately resolved, because inquisitive forces are exploiting the situation. Furthermore, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) must monitor and check the hostile propaganda against the unity and interests of Pashtun people on national and international media. It is also crucial hour that Pashtuns should identify their enemies and friends. They should know that there is no difference between a Pashtun or an Afghan.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Lahore.