Traitors at large?

  • Where treason leads to terrorism


PTM parliamentarians Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, who had been incarcerated for over four months on terrorism charges, were released on bail on September 18 by an anti-terrorism court in Bannu to enable them to attend parliamentary proceedings. The duo had been arrested for their alleged involvement in two separate incidents. One was the deadly May 26 clash between military personnel and Pashtun Tahafuz Movement activists at the Kharqamar check post that resulted in 13 deaths, and the other an IED blast in which four Army personnel were martyred.

Their return to Parliament was treated with taunts of treachery and demands of proof of their loyalty to Pakistan by some members in return for the government negotiating with them. While in a democratic dispensation, parliamentarians have the right to differ with each other in matters of opinion or views towards legislation, they should be careful in labelling other members as traitors until proven to be so. Pakistan’s history is unfortunately chequered with instances of hurling accusations of treachery at each other.

The litmus test is to let the law of the land decide if a person or a group were conspiring against the state or colluding with the enemy. The reverse is also true, when sometimes politicians against whom solid evidence of treachery and conspiracy against Pakistan is available, other politicians raise a hue and cry to have the charges dropped. Readers may recall Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, against whom there was ample proof of his involvement in the Agartala Conspiracy— an attempt to ignite an armed revolution against West Pakistan with India’s help— that would result in East Pakistan’s secession. As soon as his trial commenced, some politicians from West Pakistan objected to the trial, deeming the case a conspiracy of the Pakistan government against the political autonomy movement of East Pakistan. President Ayub Khan, whose hold was weakening, called off the trial in disgust. Later events proved Mujib’s deep collusion with India, which led to insurgency, Indian invasion, severance of East Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh.

Coming back to the case of the parliamentarians in question, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, commenting on their treachery would be unfair since their case is under trial in an anti-terrorism court; however, the party they owe allegiance to, leaves a lot to be desired.

PTM proclaims itself as a Pashtun Rights activist movement, led by Manzoor Pashteen, supported by Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir. The group is reportedly being supported by Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party Senator Usman Kakar and ANP’s Afrasiab Khattak, Bushra Gohar and PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar. Khattak and Gohar openly meet the Afghan Ambassador, giving rise to speculations of their allegiance to Kabul.

RAW and NDS are trying gimmicks and tricks in this losing battle and the resurrection of the PTM bogey is a last-ditch effort. Dawar reportedly plays in the hands of the Indian secret service RAW and its Afghan counterpart, NDS, which are both hostile agencies

PTM exploits Pashtun grievances, which the community suffered because of mushroom growth of foreign sponsored terrorism in its area. An in-depth look at the PTM strategy exposes its true intent of spreading chaos and hatred pf state institutions. PTM follows exactly the same narrative as was followed by the terrorist organisation of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to wreak havoc and undermine Pakistani law enforcing agencies’ efforts in the War on Terror. PTM cannot debate its agenda with any knowledgeable or critical mind, but targets low educated and remotely located youth and population through hollow slogans, high-pitched music, and occasional sad tales to arouse psychosis. A careful look at the leadership’s activities makes it apparent that Dawar has been assigned the responsibility of addressing the foreign front and tries to instigate the Pashtun Diaspora while Wazir is holding the Afghan front. He is in continuous touch with the PTM’s Afghan supporters and before his arrest, had crossed Torkham to Afghanistan.

Manzoor Pashteen, the PTM founder, had organised it as a movement, initially for a good cause. Formerly known as the Mehsud Tahafuz Movement, it was started in May 2014 by eight students at Gomal University as an initiative for removing landmines from Waziristan (especially Mehsud territory) and other tribal areas affected by the war in North-West Pakistan. The brutal slaying of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi led to protest rallies in a number of cities including Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore, Swat, Karachi, Dera Ismail Khan, Swabi and Bannu.

However, the PTM’s noble cause morphed. The PTM rallies were now aimed at launching protests to highlight the plight of the Pashtun community. Around this time, forces inimical to Pakistan, started sponsoring PTM as it began chanting slogans of Yeh jo dehshat gardi hai, iss ke peechhay wardi hai (‘Behind this terrorism is the uniformed army’). PTM also picked up the cudgel for the recovery of missing persons and reiterated its demands, which included the removal of the draconian Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), the release of missing persons, stopping the humiliation of Pashtuns at security checkpoints, and removal of landmines in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Perhaps under pressure of the protest rallies, Naqeebullah Mehsud’s alleged killer, the SSP of Karachi’s Malir District, Rao Anwar, was arrested for extra-judicial killing. Policies already in the pipeline were expedited. The FATA Interim Governance Regulation 2018, replaced the FCR and outlined how FATA would be governed, “within a timeframe of two years”, while the region was merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).

The movement for the protection of the rights of the Pashtuns appear to be misplaced. The ethnic community resides on both sides of the Durand Line. Afghans claim that the international border established in 1896 between Sir Mortimer Durand, a British diplomat and civil servant, and Abdur Rahman Khan, the Afghan Amir, was limited to 100 years only and ceases to exist. The original document signed by both dignitaries does not mention any limitation on the extent of the period for the Durand Line. The Afghans, however lay claim to vast swathes of territory in Pakistan occupied by Pashtuns and demand their return to form a greater Afghanistan. In Pakistan, Pashtuns mostly occupy the north-western part of the country and have the second largest representation in the Pakistan Army as well. They have ample representation in the provincial as well as the federal governments. Despite bearing the brunt of terror attacks as well as the destruction and havoc wreaked during the occupation of Afghanistan by the USSR (1979-1989) and later the invasion of Afghanistan by NATO following 9/11, the Pashtuns, a resilient race have survived and even thrived. There is a possibility that anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan as well certain detractors of Pakistan have been the driving force behind the PTM, providing it financial and moral support. International media too was highlighting the activities of this manifestation of Pashtun nationalism in Pakistan. Some Pakistani politicians also openly subscribe to the demands of PTM.

According to media reports, the PTM was erected as a bogey by hostile agencies in the name of Pashtuns. Three leaders were created from local breakaway factions of the ANP and FATA activists. Despite foreign funding and international support, PTM was not able to bluff the people of erstwhile FATA or Pashtuns residing in KP and Balochistan.

Dawar, who was courted in the USA by Hussain Haqqani’s SAATH forum and the Stimson Center, has become a pawn in the hands of hostile agencies, mainly operating from Afghanistan. After reverses in Afghanistan and the likely peace deal between the USA and the Taliban, the PTM leadership finds its space squeezed on both sides of Pak-Afghan border.

RAW and NDS are trying gimmicks and tricks in this losing battle and the resurrection of the PTM bogey is a last-ditch effort. Dawar reportedly plays in the hands of the Indian secret service RAW and its Afghan counterpart, NDS, which are both hostile agencies. Readers may decide for themselves where the shoe pinches.