PTM’s expanded narrative is hurting Pakistan’s interest

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Muhammad Hanif

WITH the passage of time Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has been changing its politics to at
tract attention of some foreign countries. Initially the agenda of the PTM looked to be entirely domestic. But, once it got the attention of the media and the young people, PTM started expanding and externalizing its agenda as if it was being given incentives by some hostile neighbouring countries, to malign Pakistan and state institutions and advance their agenda. The externalization of PTM’s agenda became obvious because gradually the PTM’s narrative started clashing with Pakistan’s national interest. Before further discussion on the subject, let us have a look at PTM’s latest narrative. The PTM’s latest narrative is as follows. Pashtuns are oppressed and the PTM is the voice and saviour of Pashtuns. While the Pashtuns are economically deprived, economic policies of Punjab are dominating. The Army’s excess in tribal districts of Khyber Kakhtunkwha (KP), has caused destruction of properties and houses of Pashtuns, while carrying out operations against terrorists. The Army operations in the tribal districts of KP are driven by its economic interests and the Army is using the natural resources of the area.
The PTM has externalized its efforts to malign Pakistan and the State institutions and it projects itself as an oppressed entity. The PTM’s narrative is being used by some HR organizations probably to supplement its efforts. The PTM criticizes the Army and blames it for missing persons and forced disappearances. It has also started blaming that Pakistan is a terrorism supporting and terrorism exporting country. The PTM alleges that the Pashtuns are maltreated at check posts and their cultural sensitivities are disturbed by the Army. Now, let us see what the state of Pakistan thinks about the PTM. The salient points of the State’s position about the activities of the PTM are described as follows. It is a massive offensive launched on the sovereignty of Pakistan in the shape of the PTM, and it is designed to discredit and reverse national counter terrorism effort PTM’s efforts are promoting divisive tendencies on ethnic, religious and sectarian lines, thus breeding secession sentiment in the tribal areas. It seems that the PTM is trying to advance an India-supported Afghanistan agenda of creating greater Pakhtunistan. It is also a provocation against the state, creating law and order situation by moving Pashtuns toward intolerance.
In fact, by using Afghan soil, India is trying to relieve pressure in Jammu and Kashmir by supporting the PTM to work toward creating instability in Pakistan. In other words, the PTM is being used as a proxy by India, the Afghan Government and some external hostile powers for harming Pakistan’s stability. The unfolding of well-timed and a synchronized campaign by the PTM testifies scripted activity of this organization. The PTMis exploiting governance inadequacies, which are the most appealing to the general population of the tribal districts and in this campaign the Indian media and media of some hostile foreign powers, is supporting the PTM. The above discussed narrative of the PTM indicates that it is getting some kind of support of the neighbouring and other countries, which are hostile to Pakistan, and which want to harm Pakistan’s stability and international prestige by undermining its ability and resolve to ensure the civil rights of the people of the tribal areas, now part of the KP. While the PTM leadership criticizes the Pakistan military by blaming it for damaging the property and checking at the check posts, and it incites the people of the area against the military, it is quite clear that this organization is pursuing a foreign agenda of tarnishing the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the Pakistani people, an effort to denude the armed forces of the support of the people in carrying out the missions of the national interest.
Moreover, instead of acknowledging Pakistan Army’s sacrifices to root out terrorism in the tribal areas, PTM’s blaming the Army for missing persons and forced disappearances and alleging that Pakistan is a terrorism supporting and terrorism exporting country clearly indicates that the organization is now pursuing Afghan and Indian agenda against Pakistan with the support of these two countries. Likewise, the PTM’s assertion that the Army is there in the tribal areas for serving its economic interests in meaningless and saying that Punjab dominates in the economics is also a motivated statement. Because, after the 18th Amendment of the Constitution of Pakistan, all the provinces are free to choose their economic policies and 50 per cent share of the natural resources of the country has been given to the provinces on a permanent basis, to be utilized for their development and welfare of their people. In view of the foregoing discussion, it is imperative that the ulterior motives of the PTM are understood by the people of Pakistan and the anti-State activities of the organization are discouraged by them.
—The writer is an ex-Army Colonel and Senior Research Fellow, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad.