Can’t beat ‘em, better appease ‘em

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  • PTM has become a voice for oppressed Pashtuns hailing from all strata

‘Ideologies divide us, stories unite us.’ I heard this line years back in a documentary and it stayed with me ever since. In our land, the teacher and the taskmaster both have shoved a particular version of ‘Ideology’ down our throats. We, and our fathers, were robbed of knowing the nuisances of human experience through stories because at the altar of ‘greater good’ a million mortal men hold neither worth nor value.

Ideology, by its very definition, allows an individual to merge himself in the collective and purge himself of a solitary — at times nagging, other times emphatic — conscious. Ideology envisions a collective sans exception, a group sans diversity, a clique sans dissent, and a cabal sans self-accountability. Ideology, in simplest terms, shields a group from glaring realities that are uncomfortable and horrid. It divides men in winners and losers. The winners protect and perpetuate it. The losers turn sour and rebel.

We mortals have this inherent tendency to take pride in things petty, futile and downright unnecessary. We love to brandish the placard: ‘I hail from the BEST and the BRAVEST group of people’. Thus, it would be erroneous to believe that ideologies are plain, simple narratives believed by some, ridiculed by others. No, they are not. Ideologies are promoted, raised and protected by those who accrue benefits from their perpetuity. There are strings attaché/d, narratives fine-tuned, tickets sold, money minted, believers made, and agendas pursued. The ideology show mimics the Sisyphus and his ordeal. It never ends. Never. Ever.

Now that we have done a postmortem on ideology, let us meet the folks who’ve raised their voice against the excesses done in the name of protecting the ‘narrative’ of an all-encompassing monolithic ideology.

PTM has come a long way. The pedestal Pashtun Tahafuz Movement presently perches on was not achieved by chance or fell in their lap by some lucky stroke of fate. The grievances, the painful day-to-day experiences, the agonising decade and the half of fear and sheer indifference of state played their due part in making of PTM.

Now, the Leviathan has grown full size and attained monstrous proportions. The once fringe PTM has gone mainstream. The lone Manzoor Pashteen now has a pack of reliable lieutenants at his beck and call. Pashteen is heard, understood, followed by many as he has become a symbol of struggle against tyranny and blind rule of the mightiest of the land.

The Facebook live is his channel, his audiences know him, adore him, his speeches have impact, his rallies are getting thick, and the cause of PTM is being deliberated upon and discussed in formal and informal gatherings. The PTM is slowly but steadily inundating the width and breadth of Pakistan. Pashteen, let there be no ambiguity, reiterates what needs to be reiterated over and over again — to end the oppression, in all its shapes, forms, and guises.

The way forward is to bid farewell to all the cherished chimeras, whims, myths, reveries, and make-believe fantasies for we’ve nothing but suffered immensely at their hands

In recent days, I’ve sat and talked with scores of Pashtuns hailing from different socioeconomic backgrounds belonging to KPK, FATA and other parts of Pakistan. Whenever I touched upon the PTM, without exception, there was this gush of passion in their voices. They showed unflinching support and utter solidarity with the PTM cause. No doubt, the oppressed, the voiceless have spoken. And the world has heard them.

The way forward is to bid farewell to all the cherished chimeras, whims, myths, reveries, and make-believe fantasies for we’ve nothing but suffered immensely at their hands. They have turned our brothers into our worst enemies and estranged us from our neighbours.

Enough of the prosaic prose, let us conclude this piece with a splendid poem titled ‘Protest’ penned down by Ella Wheeler Wilcox a century back.

To sin by silence, when we should protest,

Makes cowards out of men. The human race

Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised

Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,

The inquisition yet would serve the law,

And guillotines decide our least disputes.

The few who dare, must speak and speak again

To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,

No vested power in this great day and land

Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry

Loud disapproval of existing ills;

May criticise oppression and condemn

The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws

That let the children and childbearers toil

To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast

Of independence in this mighty land.

Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.

Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.

Until the manacled slim wrists of babes

Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,

Until the mother bears no burden, save

The precious one beneath her heart, until

God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed

And given back to labor, let no man

Call this the land of freedom.