Time For Introspection: We Looked The Other Way While Pashtuns Were Systematically Mistreated
Farrukh Abbasi analyses the factors that led to the recent Pashtun uprising and how the state mistreated the ethnic minority for far too long.
In the early days of Pakistan, when our resources weren’t sufficient to fight battles in Kashmir, we glamorized the “Arm bearer Pashtuns” and sent them to fight a battle everyone knew Pakistan couldn’t win. As Pakistan grew, the narrative of hating India was forcing us to spend more money on defense, and especially defense of the Punjabi border.
Our western border needed a lot of protection so due the lack of resources, we took pen and rabab away from our Pashtun brothers and told them to pick guns to protect themselves.
Pashtuns didn’t mind that at all. We even sent down an army to control Balochs which started another plethora of issues with the Balochis which have worsened the security situation in that region as well.
Militancy of this region didn’t only create an instability but also gave rise to generations and generations of agitated youth that didn’t only resist against the militancy and military action and in doing so, created a negative perception towards the state of Pakistan.
Naturally, if you destabilize a region long enough, and continue running militancy campaigns, within and from outside the region, youngsters of that region ae going to feel the need to dissent.
For the soviet war, we also used this region as a breeding ground to create militants, allowed foreign players to not only fund and train terrorists, but also allowed military bases and airports for American and NATO forces. These events in the 1980s further destabilized this region. Kalashnikov culture was created to promote militancy and Gorilla fighters who would go across into Afghanistan and fight for Americans against the Soviets.
From December 1979 to February 1989, the land of Pashtuns was used as a massive training camp. During this era, the progressive writers, musicians, poetry lovers, sportsmen and highly skilled professionals started leaving the north-west frontier for a better war-free life. Anywhere in the world where immigrants are allowed, you will see a lot of Pashtuns raising their families.
This is an opportunity cost for Pakistan’s human capital potential but no one seems to care about it.
This trend of a destabilized region of the north western frontier continues as of today, and had escalated during the last martial law of war criminal and dictator Army chief Parvaiz Musharraf. He took things to another level by allowing private military contractors like Blackwater to operate in Pakistan, especially in the region around the North West frontier, and also used Pakistani defense forces and budget to capture citizens of Pakistan and gave them to America so that the war continues to be a cash cow for him and Pakistani defense forces.
Journalist Ahmed Noorani uncovered a story of Pervez Musharraf giving away Pakistan’s mineral resources from the western frontier to get heavy kickbacks. He used the Saudi royal family to create a smokescreen around his corruption by asking the Saudi king to “gift” him the kickback from Americans.
Then came democracy but the Pashtuns continued to face wars. War against terror, operation Zarb-e-Azb, drone attacks and America’s Osama operation.
As the last Nawaz Sharif government was in its third year, another phenomenon of “mainstreaming” terrorists started to emerge. This shocked the Pashtun youth. They kept sacrificing for decades and instead of protecting them, terrorists were given media coverage. The state differentiated among them with the labels of “Good Taliban” and “Bad Taliban”.
During these years, Peshawar army school attack killed 125 kids which refueled the war mongers and the need to have more military and paramilitary forces in this region. Mines, checkpoints, curfew, communication control, stereotyping tribals, continued disappearances by “unknowns”.
Political victimization of Bacha Khan’s descendants and many other issues were creating a snowball effect that was doubled down when Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government led by PM Imran khan’s PTI offered funding worth 60 crore rupees to the breeding ground of Taliban aka Akora Khattak seminary.
Imagine yourself as a Pashtun kid looking at all these things and discrimination. Imagine the idea of trying to go to a school in Islamabad/Rawalpindi and getting checked at checkpoints right outside your own village when visiting your own house. Imagine seeing that and watching Naqeeb Ullah Mehsud getting murdered by SP Rao Anwar. Even if we assume that PTM is what DG ISPR calls it, and people who support and being used by Indian agents etc, why are Pashtuns getting shot at in Waziristan while Punjabi Barelvis get 1000 rupee envelopes with a request for clearing out a Dharna?
Is a Pashtun dharna different than a Punjabi dharna? Let’s take PTM out of this entire equation. If there was no PTM, would Pashtun youth be happy with Pakistan and Pakistan army? Where is the Prime minister, interior minister or CM KP in the Miranshah Incident? Why is the minister of Postal Services addressing the parliament about an issue that falls under the Interior Ministry’s domain?
Who is to blame for the constant state of instability in this region? Who will rebuild 95000 houses that were destroyed in this war? If Kartarpura Border can be opened despite a threat of nuclear war, why can’t the western border be a little bit friendlier? Is instability really caused by the India-Afghanistan-America-Israel lobby or someone is using it as an excuse for commercial gains?
The only answer I have for all of these questions is something completely different. The regions instability is directly connected with something no one in Pakistan seems to talk about. Look at the private sector minerals exploration in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is called the Saudi Arabia of Lithium.
In a 2007 US geological Survey report, it was estimated that around a Trillion Dollars of mineral resources like iron, copper, colored diamonds and rubys etc. Not to count the 285 square miles of opium production in Afghanistan which according to a 2017 unodc survey amounts to 87.5 of global opium yield.
Afghanistan is still an economy with a total GDP of around 19 Billion USD. Why are global superpowers coming into Afghanistan, fighting a slow decade long war, and leaving without a proper solution, giving all the troubles to Pakistan and Pakistanis?
Was Pakistan just a pawn in the grand scheme of things? Did the instability in the Northern Pakistan, massive migration of Afghans into Pakistan and the issues of Pashtun youth just happen to be a byproduct of the mineral and opium trade?
Is Afghanistan the modern-day India, and Soviets and Americans just refurbished oriental Colonizers? Is Pakistan army just playing its part in facilitating these businesses with just 30-40 billion USD in aid, control of a country and are the lives of Pashtuns acting as blood diamonds?
We have to ask ourselves all of these questions to move towards an objective solution of the issue of Pashtuns and the Pashtun Tahfuz movement.