The emergence of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM)

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Recently, PTM has been warned by the military and it was accused of being funded by India’s intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, National Directorate for Security (NDS)to create chaos in Pakistan. People living in Federally Administrative Tribal Area (FATA) are prone to displacement, extrajudicial killing, socio-economic scarcity and acute suffering by the military operation against “war on terror”. Since the Soviet -invasion of Afghanistan in 1980s ethnic Pashtun community are the worst victim of terrorism and trying to become the part of ordinary Pakistan, which has become a potential dream.


Before we explain the significant reason of the allegation against PTM, let’s just have a glance upon the history, in order to fathom better understanding of the movement. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan was decided (Durand Line) in 1893, by British Empire and Afghanistan regime without considering the relative suffering of the Pashtun community. It was called the Durand Line, which is 2430km long. This divided the Pashtun community between the two countries including their tribes. However, Pakistan did not recognize the border after its announcement and left the tribal area to govern under Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), which is British enacted laws for the maintenance of law and order situation of the tribal community. This old system denied people social and political rights, was dysfunctional before 9/11 and U.S intervention in Afghanistan acted as a catalyst for those who had long-standing grievances.


History shows that in 1980s Soviet invasion in Afghanistan made a leeway for Pakistan to use FATA territory as a geo-strategic space to influence events in Afghanistan. The repercussion of this episode increased religious institutions where a whole generation was socialized in radical Islam in the madrassahs and along with afghan mujahedeen. After the event of 9/11 these Pashtun provided support and passage to Pakistan and US to fight Al- Qaeda in Afghanistan. In 2005, the arrival of Al Qaeda in FATA filled the power vacuum by providing huge sums to unemployed youth and socially deprived Pashtuns. Moreover, FATA is not a single entity. There is diverse dynamics of leadership which has different characteristics. Armed groups active in FATA are disparate entities, divided by tribal, ethnic, cultural and political differences. Several wars are fought at the same time in FATA; a “greater war” between the Taliban and the state over lost territory, sectarian war between sunni and shia, between Deobandi and Barelvis in Khyber, tribal wars, for instance, between Wazirs and Mehsuds and cultural wars between dominant clans. All these wars provided an opportunity for Al-Qaeda to use FATA as a territory to launch terrorist operations across Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Socially and economically Pashtun community has been deprived of justice, social and economic right. There are no as many number of schools in FATA as compared to other provinces. Women are not allowed to acquire education or even walk outside of the house. The young youth of FATA is either unemployed or moved to Peshawar or Gulf countries in order to earn livelihood. Government of Pakistan did not pay any heed to develop FATA province. Also, amid the volcano of violence, thousands of civilians have disappeared, and thousands have fallen victim to extrajudicial killings. Pashtun are profiled as suspected terrorists across the country, face humiliation at security check post, and innocent civilians face violence during security checks.


Presently, they are protecting for change and demanding the state fulfill their basic rights and responsibilities. Since Pashtun movement is accused of treason and enemies of the state. It is surprising that Pakistan’s institutions are responsible to monitor and protect the integrity of the state. Dangerous threats prevail. And security agencies yet failed to adequately stop the leaders from receiving foreign funds. It is elusive to say that when certain members of the community are relatively deprived of basic necessities, they contend to move towards wherever they see an opportunity to fulfill their stomach. Definitely like that Pashtun movement saw opportunity to satisfy their insatiable demands.


I came across a number of interviews and articles. The Pashtun movement members claim that they do not have any agenda against Pakistan. They say that they do not seek secession, and do not follow any political ideology which require a radical transformation of the state of Pakistan. However, they say that they are the worst victim of terrorism in South Asia and seeking justice for the wrongs and atrocities that have endured their lives and continued to tolerate.


The only best way for Pakistan is contemplation on the movements demands. But those people must be brought under the ambit of laws and constitution also. They must be bind without a social contract. Those people must be given representation through elections and merit, transparency, and inclusiveness should be introduced in order to integrate FATA and bring it into the mainstream. Sadly, two decrees (government documentation for the development of FATA and Political Party Act which allows FATA’s people form political party) were signed during Presidents Zardari’s era as an encouraging step, but were hindered. Women should be given opportunities to acquire education and participate in the provincial and federal for the representation of women. There should be amendments in frontier Crimes Regulations and extend Political Parties Order 2002 to the tribal areas. Under the NFC award, huge sum needs to pour into FATA to build schools, hospitals and institutions. There should be number of projects, related to social and economic developments, initiated and ensure ownership to the people by overcoming their sense of alienation. Industrialization will create job opportunities for the young youth and further give provide them prospects for better social life. Scientific education should be introduced in madrassahs along with a mechanism of monitoring the institutions. (There are proofs in history that the church also supported science and it flourished there).


Industrialization and Education maybe a golden opportunity for the underprivileged people of Pashtun movement in FATA. With these tools of reformation, the results definitely may be different. The present government seems working emphatically to overcome such impediments and this is a time to listen to the grievances of the Pashtun people and fulfill their demands, for the real socio-economic development of the FATA region.      

Sher Afghan

Sher Afghan

An experienced legal professional (LLB, BCom & LLM) with a reputation for integrity, innovative thinking and a proven understanding of the law and legal system in New South Wales and Lahore. Aside from a lawyer, I am a Confident communicator and writer who is able to liaise directly with statutory agencies and non-statutory agencies, Research Societies, Educational institutions and other legal and non-legal parties.