LAHORE: The Pashtun Tahfuz Movement (PTM) rally at Lahore’s Mochi Gate on Sunday attracted a large crowd. Thousands of Pashtuns and local Lahoris thronged the gathering.
The Punjabi youth which attended the rally on Sunday comprised activists and students belonging to different universities who wanted to show support to not only PTM’s cause, but also the greater Pashtun ethnicity.
Raza Gillani, a student at Government College University (GCU) and a part of the Progressive Students Collective (PSC), stated that because the cycle of oppression was already present in the society, it did not take much for the Punjabi youth to sympathize with the repression of Pashtuns.
“Oppression of women and students, forced disappearances of journalists and activists, state-level discrimination faced by Hazaras and minorities is already something that we are aware of. Pashtun oppression is not an isolated issue therefore if we intend to stand up against one of these issues, it is incumbent for us to stand in support with all these communities,” he stated at length.
Stating his resolve to keep the debate surrounding PTM alive, even in the absence of mainstream PTM leaders in Punjab, Raza stated that the PSC aims to keep the movement alive in the campuses via debate, open dialogues and a constant liaison with the Pashtun community.
“We as students will use all the power we have to keep on supporting the PTM, that includes creating awareness within the campuses and making sure the dialogue and debate regarding Pashtun oppression remain active,” he concluded.
Arooj Aurangzeb, a graduate of Punjab University (PU) and an activist associated with The Feminist Collective, stated that the very question of why a Punjabi would support PTM was regressive.
“The question is not why Punjabis support the demands of the oppressed Pashtuns, the question is why don’t they”, she stated, “if you think that as citizens of Pakistan your basic rights cannot be taken away then it is only natural that you stand with those who have unconstitutionally been denied their’s”.
Speaking on how The Feminist Collective, which as a show of solidarity with PTM thronged Sunday’s rally in large numbers she stated, “As feminists, we believe that an oppressor uses uniform tools of oppression against the marginalised communities, therefore, when one community is being singled out, we have to come out in its support regardless of which ethnicity we belong to”.
Supporting the PTM, Seerat, a graduate of Forman Christian (FC) College, who is also associated with Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) and Girls at Dhabas initiative stated that as an activist, state repressing the basic human rights of any individual, was already an unacceptable notion.
“Media blackout, racial profiling and the state coming down on the citizen’s right of expression is unacceptable to any ordinary citizen but when the persecution of a particular community becomes blatant, normal human decency transcends ethnicity and that is why a large number of Punjabis were present at the PTM rally on Sunday,” Seerat stated.
Similarly, Samiullah, a software engineer attended the PTM rally to stand against the Pashtun oppression and to prove that PTM’s strength did not just come from the tribal areas or from within the Pashtun ethnicity but also from the Punjabis who understand and sympathize with PTM’s cause.
“I am glad that PTM held its rally in Lahore, Lahore is the heart of Pakistan, by coming here not only will the people of Punjab know what PTM really believes in but, as evident by a number of locals who attended the rally yesterday, the Pashtuns will also realise that Punjabis are more than ready to stand with them for the fulfilment of their demands,” he stated.
Speaking about the rally on Sunday, Samiullah stated that every person who attended the rally “came out on the call of their conscience”. Rubbishing the repeatedly levelled accusation against the PTM, that it harbours an anti-state narrative, Samiullah stated, “The demands of Pashtuns are not unconstitutional, they want a respite from a long history of discrimination and oppression and that in my opinion is not anti-state”.
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