Stereotyping: Pashtuns Facing State Propaganda Since 1947
Pashtuns, also called Pakhtuns or Pathans, are an ethnic group living in Pakistan and some parts of Afghanistan. They are the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan after Punjabis.
History reveals that the Pashtuns are by nature very secular and moderate Muslims because there are several religious minorities living in a very peaceful way for centuries in the Pashtun Belt, which has been described as a happy pocket for the religious minorities.
In his book “My life and struggle”, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan), the great leader of Pashtuns, says, “Pashtuns are very honest, simple and peace-loving people, but with the arrival of Great Britain they have been discriminated by a proper propaganda and even they were not allowed to get a proper education.”
But even after the Partition, the behaviour of the state did not change towards the Pashtuns, as they were discriminated and stereotyped in every field of life, with a perception created that they are all war-loving people.
In the national curriculum, the profile and characteristics of Pashtuns have been defined as war-loving and barbaric which can be termed as an organised propaganda to portray them as terrorists and war lovers.
Moreover, when Punjab was under terrorist attacks in 2017, there was a widespread crackdown against anyone who merely looked Pashtun. Officials and non-officials notifications were issued by the Punjab Police, targeting the Pashtuns as “suspected terrorists”.
The situation got worse when the Pashtun traders were asked by the traders associations in Lahore to submit their ID cards and business details at the nearest police station due to a security threat.
In other unofficial notifications, the police asked the people to inform them on the urgent basis if they found any vendor on the streets of Lahore in Pashtun attire —- meaning that anyone with the Pashtun looks might be a terrorist.
Talking to NayaDaur exclusively, former senator and a member of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Afrasiab Khattak said, “The propaganda against Pashtuns is not new in the state of Pakistan. Even the military operations in the tribal areas have consistently targeted the Pashtuns because of their ethnicity.”
He added that the Pashtuns had been displaced and forced to leave their homes from tribal regions and Swat during military operations and they were subjected to live in shelters for months without any appropriate arrangements.
Media reports reveal that in 2014, the Sindh and Punjab governments had stopped the IDPs from entering their provinces, fearing they might engage in terror activities.
Pashtuns are the only people in Pakistan who have greatly suffered since 2001 at the hands of banned groups, drone attacks and Pakistani military operations. According to reports, the people killed in terrorism in Pakistan since 2001 were 95 per cent Pashtuns.
According to Khattak, “The situation has changed now, Pashtuns can no more be attacked through state propaganda because the PTM [Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement] has brought a great awareness among them and now they can stand for their rights and can speak up for their rights.”
He elaborated, “The state must target the banned organisations and stop their political activities rather than targeting or blackmailing the non-violent PTM which is the sole representative of the discriminated, war-affected and marginalised Pashtun people.”