- Is the worst yet to come?
What are our issues? One can begin by naming everything under the sun ranging from unemployment, a shaky economy, a weak political setup and end up regretting the rampant increase in population. What we peddle as their remedies? Promises without a plan; slogans without substance; magic bullets without research and hope without belief. The powers-that-be revel in perpetuating the sanctity of the state while the individuals are left to fend for themselves. There are red lines, not meant to be crossed. There is a path of ‘One Nation, One People, One Culture’ to tread upon. There are sacred cows never to be questioned. And lastly, there is ever-elusive yet always present ‘Greater Good’ for which one has to sacrifice everything; be it passion, dreams, loved ones, or even life.
Last year, in these pages I wrote about PTM (Pashtun Tahafuz Movement) and how pleasures abandoned them long ago, their hopes dashed eons back, and now even their fears have died.
This debt of disillusion has accumulated over many decades. The Pashtuns have just begun to shed it. I read Shelley way back. I didn’t understand him then. Now, seeing thousands of Pashtuns without any fears holding them back are brimming with newfound hope, I think I understand what Shelley had in mind when he wrote ‘Death Is here And Death Is There’. The sons and daughters of forgotten, perished Pashtuns have finally decided to traverse the road less taken.
Their demands are not unjust: an end to the harassment of their people by forces, recovery of missing persons, clearing of mines from their lands and a stop to extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns
They know that life is a strange struggle. The monsters of yesteryears are victims of today, the successors of oppressed nobodies become the mouthpieces of liberty and deliverance, the meek and humble, once empowered, turn into brutal taskmasters. War, famine, wants, and poverty brings out the best and the worst of qualities in us mortals. Pashtuns are mortals. And mortals perish for ideals.
When terrorism wreaked havoc in all parts of the country. They shouldered the brunt. There was a time, not very long ago, when bomb blasts, suicide blasts, killings of innocent people from majority and minority groups was order of the day. The civilians and military decided to root out this menace. Operations in ilaqa-gheir were conducted. Resultantly, millions were displaced internally, collateral damage in the form of civilian deaths skyrocketed and Pashtuns in particular were once again at the receiving end of the proverbial stick.
Enter PTM. The movement has gone from strength to strength. The party has bagged full support from various political and social quarters in their struggle for their fundamental rights. Their demands are not unjust: an end to the harassment of their people by forces, recovery of missing persons, clearing of mines from their lands and a stop to extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns.
Barred from the traditional and conventional media, the PTM made extensive use of social media. Motivational songs, memes, criticising the state’s policy of fighting terrorism while avoiding questions about its cause; the movement attracted acolyte from the length and breadth of society. Like their predecessors in Sindh and Balochistan who struggled for their rights, PTM too is being labelled as NDS-RAW sponsored movement aimed at disintegration of Pakistan as part of some grand conspiracy against the country.
According to PM Imran Khan the grievances are real, everybody concurs but it is the methods that are troublesome. The need of the hour is to realise that PTM and other movements are neither anti-state nor aimed at breaking Pakistan into pieces. These movements are children of neglect and oppression, brought up in the lap of lack of opportunities and want that have finally grown up to demand their share of the pie. The state has so far refused to even acknowledge that deadly fault lines divide the citizenry in many large and small groups. Pashtuns are just one ethnic segment that has raised its voice, many more like Hazaras, Sindhis, Seraikis and others will take cue from them.
So, who is afraid of PTM? The answer is neither straight nor simplistic. The doings of decades cannot be wished away. The harvest has to be reaped. Either through dialogue, a far more permanent solution or through force, a path paved with more bloodshed, ruin and perdition; the state has a choice.
It should choose wisely for in wisdom lies salvation.