As the Pashtun Long March reached Karachi, crossing hurdles upon hurdles laid in its path, there was an eerily silence among the news channels.
Those who are willing to make a mountain out of a molehill were surprisingly quiet over this historic non-violent Pashtun march. The channels and the papers were void of any coverage. The march supposedly was only fit for a small thumbnail on their websites or a brief passage in the editorials.
Manzoor pashtoon addressing thousands in Karachi despite all hurdles created by state to stop this historic moment from happening, he said “We will reach out to Pashtoons even if they are in China to hear their miseries.”#PashtunLongMarch2Karachi pic.twitter.com/lqT5EdNOlI
— Mirwais Kakar (@mirwaiskk) May 13, 2018
This march has been termed as a catalyst for change for the Pashtuns. After decades of being victim to the War On Terror, they have united in the movement led by Manzoor Pashteen, who hails from South Waziristan. He has experienced the brutalities that came with residing on the Pak-Afghan border.
Manzoor represents the generation that grew up facing several adversities; displacement from their native region, army inflicted wars against terrorism and the absence of basic rights. Pashtun youth had decades of frustration to voice out and the breaking point came on 27 March. Naqeebullah Mehsud was killed in an apparent fake encounter by the notorious SSP Rao Anwar in Karachi.
This was another nonsensical loss of life caused by absurd circumstances and the Pashtun had had enough.
“Thousands of young Pashtun boys have disappeared in the last decade and a half, picked up from their homes and universities and streets in the name of curbing militancy,” said Farhad Ali, the 24-year-old vice chairman of the Fata Youth Jirga, one of the organizations leading the Islamabad protests. “We want all these young men to be produced before a court of law and concrete evidence presented that they have committed any crime.”
FATA remains as one of the most under developed area of the country.
The stats point out a serious ignorance that has been pertained to the area. Ignorance that includes negligence and colonial era laws.
The Federal Crimes Regulations (FCR) which was created in 1901 by the British is still implemented in FATA. It allows presidential appointed bureaucrats or political agents to have the authority to do anything; blockade, arrest civilians, exile tribes or worse. Moreover, FATA is exempt from the jurisdiction of the country’s courts and no laws passed in parliament apply there. While sections of the FCR was repealed in 2011, these changes are not being practiced in theory. The effects of FCR have not been reconciled by the state as well.
Void of a platform that did not conform to the colonial stereotyping of the ‘ghuyoor qabail’ ,the Pashtuns have rushed to Manzoor Pashteen’s call.
They have put forward some preliminary demands that include:
1. Police officials who killed Naqeebullah Mehsud should be brought to justice.
2. A judicial commission should be made for the extrajudicial killing of the Pashtuns and the Chief Justice of Pakistan should directly monitor it.
3. Present all missing persons in courts.
4. Remove landmines from FATA.
5. End the imposed curfew policy after every terrorist incident in FATA.
Whether the march is able to cause the authorities to take notice remains to be seen..
The march has done much to abolish the rigid Pathan stereotypes. Women have embraced the march, given enthralling speeches and formed a vital component. Educated youth has been the core of the movement. The march has been completely non violent, in a start contrast to the militant tribesman stereotype.
The skeptics continue to bash the supposed anti-Pakistan stance of Pashteen while the sea of supporters continue to rally under his banner. The inarguable positive is that, this movement will cause a politically aware Pashtun community; limited to ethnic politics, now the Pashtuns have a voice to convey their concerns in a respectable manner. As per Pashteen, the struggle for their rights will continue. What unfolds would be crucial to the future of the region.