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PTM loses steam

Sultan M Hali

PASHTUN Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) proclaims itself as a Pashtun Rights activist movement. Members are led by Manzoor Pashteen, MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir. The group is being supported by some functional and nonfunctional leadership of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP)’s Senator Usman Kakar and Awami National Party (ANP)’s Afrasiab Khattak, Bushra Gohar and PPP Senator Farhat Ullah Babar. It is curious that numerous renowned international media organizations like VOA, BBC, Mashaal and Deewa Radio are promoting the ideology of PTM.
The organization exploits Pashtun grief, fear and sorrows which the community suffered because of mushroom growth of foreign sponsored terrorism in its area. An in-depth look at the PTM strategy exposes its true intent of spreading chaos, confusion, divide and instigation against institutions. PTM follows exactly same narrative as was followed by the terrorist organization of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to wreak havoc and undermine state institution and Pakistan’s efforts in war on terror. PTM cannot debate its agenda with any knowledgeable or critical mind, instead it targets low educated and remotely located youth and population through hollow slogans, high pitch music, and occasional sad tales to arouse madness in the masses. A careful look at leadership’s activities may expose their true designs.
Mohsin Dawar has been assigned the responsibility of addressing the foreign front and tries to instigate Pashtun Diaspora for alleged deprivations. Ali Wazir is holding the Afghan front. He is in continuous touch with the Afghan colleagues of PTM and has recently crossed Torkham border to Afghanistan where he was received amidst slogans of Lar o Bar Your Afghan. Manzoor Pashteen is constantly changing gears. He is claiming to sit and talk to the Government about his demands. Whereas on the other hand he is accusing Pakistani media for not airing PTM narrative. According to the latest information available, Manzur Pashteen plans organizing a meeting at Peshawar to record his group’s protest against the alleged murder of Arman Loni.
It appears that PTM’s steam is running out. Even the Pashtun population has also started seriously questioning the real motives of PTM. Better leadership orientation is the need of the hour for people of former FATA to help them address their genuine needs as well the justified demands. Readers may recall that on 13 January 2019, PTM had held a rally at Tank to observe the first anniversary of the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young Pashtun from Waziristan in Karachi. Manzoor Pashteen, the founder of PTM had organized the movement initially for a good cause. Formerly known as the Mehsud Tahafuz Movement, it was started in May 2014 by eight students at Gomal University as an initiative for removing landmines from Waziristan (especially Mehsud territory) and other parts of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas, affected by the war in North-West Pakistan. The brutal slaying of Naqeebullah Mehsud morphed the organization into PTM, which organized protest rallies in most of the major cities including Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, Swat, Karachi, Dera Ismail Khan, Swab and Bannu.
However, the noble cause of PTM soon morphed into other design. The PTM rallies were now aimed at launching protests to highlight the plight of the Pashtun community. Around this time, forces inimical to Pakistan, started sponsoring PTM as it began chanting slogans of Yeh jo dehshat gardi hai, iss ke peechhay wardi hai (‘Behind this terrorism is the uniformed army’). PTM also picked up the cudgel for the recovery of missing persons and reiterate their demands, which included the removal of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), the release of missing persons, stopping the humiliation of Pashtuns at security checkpoints, and removal of landmines in the (erstwhile) Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Perhaps under pressure of the protest rallies, Naqeebullah Mehsud’s alleged killer, Senior Superintendent of Police of Karachi’s Malir District, Rao Anwar, was arrested on the charge of extra-judicial killing. Policies, which were already in the pipeline were expedited. The FATA Interim Governance Regulation 2018, signed by the President of Pakistan on May 28, 2018, replaced the FCR and outlined how FATA would be governed, “within a timeframe of two years”, while the region was merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
The movement for the protection of the rights of the Pashtuns appear to be misplaced. The ethnic community resides on both sides of the Durand Line. Afghans claim that the international border established in 1896 between Sir Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat and civil servant of the British Raj, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Afghan Amir, was limited to 100 years only and ceases to exist. The original document signed by both dignitaries does not mention any limitation on the extent of the period for Durand Line. The Afghans, however lay claim to vast swathes of territory in Pakistan occupied by Pashtuns and demand their return to form a greater Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Pashtuns mostly occupy the north-western part of the country and have the second largest representation in the Pakistan Army as well. They have ample representation in the provincial and the Federal governments. Despite bearing the brunt of terror attacks as well as the destruction and havoc wreaked during the Occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union (1979-1989) and later the invasion of Afghanistan by NATO following 9/11, the Pashtuns, a resilient race, have survived and even thrived. There is a possibility that anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan as well certain detractors of Pakistan have been the driving force behind PTM, providing it financial and moral support.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.