By Mohammed Gul Sahibbzada-Since the uprising of Pashtoons for their rights and their unprecedented rallying around a young leader, ManzoorPashteenlate last year under the slogan of ‘protection of Pashtoons’, which has evolved into a movement called ‘PashtoonTahafuz Movement (PTM)’, the entire tribal belt inside Pakistan, stretching through border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan and reaching Baluchistan province is brimming with anger and enlightened spirit to stand against ongoing Pakistan military campaign in Pashtoon areas.
After toppling of Taliban regime in Afghanistan by United States army in response to 9/11 terrorist attack on World Trade Center in New York, Pakistan military establishment allowed escaping Taliban commanders, leaders and pockets of their armed veterans inside Pakistan. These militants and their leaders were given safety and protection in Tribal areas where conservative Pashtoon tribes are dwelling since centuries. The Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) took charge of the affairs and started reorganizing Taliban commanders, leaders and fighters to regroup and attack government and international military and civil establishments inside Afghanistan right after military invasion of Afghanistan by US forces in 2002. This move by ISI exacted foreign policy of Pakistan related to Afghanistan – the ‘Strategic Depth’ – which translates into Pakistan’s desire to establish a puppet regime in Afghanistan to deny India any room in her North-Western neighborhood. Therefore, the entire Pakistan establishment including civil and military sections supported ISI in its bid to destabilize Afghanistan. In the process, splinter Taliban groups appeared in Tribal areas which bore grudges against Pakistan for helping US army to invade Afghanistan during the war in October and November 2001. These Taliban groups attacked Pakistan army institutions, and were termed as ‘bad Taliban’ by Pakistan establishment. The other Taliban who were tasked to destabilize Afghanistan were termed as ‘good Taliban’ and were supported by Pakistan establishment.
This process of double standard in the fight against terrorism caused huge resentments among Pashtoons in tribal belt and Baluchistan province of Pakistan. In addition, it was parts and parcel of ISI policy to alter tribal structure of Pashtoons, eradicate traditional leaders who valued traditional and cultural practices that were attributed to Pashtoons for centuries and were very much secular, and replace them with religious and sectarian leaders. Hundreds of Pashtoons tribal leaders were murdered under various pretexts. Thousands of families of Mehsood and other tribes were forced to evacuate their homeland and migrate to urban areas in Peshawar during military campaign of Pakistan army in 2008 and 2009 in a bid to so called eradicate ‘bad Taliban’ from the area – the ones fighting against Pakistan establishment. Hundreds of Pashtoons young people were arrested, murdered and disappeared. Military checkpoints were established at every main road where all people coming out of villages or tribal areas were checked, including elder people, which is traditionally humiliating and unacceptable to Pashtoons. According to Mr. Pashteen in one of his interviews with BBC Pashto, he said ‘our life became so miserable that there was no difference between death and life. Here was our village and there was cemetery. We were burying bodies of our brethren everyday’. When Mr. Pashteen raised his voice against ongoing ‘cruel’ treatment of Pashtoons by Pakistan army and ISI, his call has touched a cord that had run throughout Pashtoons living in tribal areas and Baluchistan. Even Pashtoons at this side of border stood and welcomed the move against Pakistani establishment.
Pakistan military establishment wanted to repeat their policy for Afghan Mujahideen adopted in 1980s, where ISI had murdered almost the entire genre of traditional and secular leaders of Afghanistan and under the name of resistance and jihad, created and supported religious figures and established religious political organizations. It was this policy whereby Dr. Najeebullah’s government was toppled and more than seven religious, political organizations were shepherded into Afghanistan where they started fighting each other. It was a smartly choreographed move by Pakistan and the aim was to destroy whatever was standing as institutions in the country so that Pakistan will remain in control of the country. The result was bloodshed, anarchy, civil war and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. You cannot organize people without genuine leaders, and there was no genuine leader in ISI plan. All were created. Though international community and US government was in support of the struggle of Afghans against the then United States of Social Russia (USSR) for their so called campaign of liberation of Afghanistan, but they did not notice the undercurrent and hidden agenda of Pakistan as to what will happen after USSR is defeated. There were many other ramification of US policy of apathy and indifference towards Afghanistan after the Soviets were gone. For example, Usama Bin Ladin was operating in the open along with groups supported by US government and Pakistani military in Afghanistan. He was stationed in Paktika province fighting Soviet forces. Bin Ladin had established a worldwide network of connections with Islamists around the globe whereby he used to attract money and fighters in order to buttress guerrilla ranks in the war against Soviets. After the defeat of Soviet forces, US government and ISI did not dismantle these jihadist organizations, and let them operate free in Afghanistan with their global connections intact. It was this blunder of US policy makers which allowed Usama Bin Laden to establish terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and which were openly supported by ISI of Pakistan for training fighters for guerrilla war in Kashmir against India. And the 9/11 attack was planned and organized out of these camps in Afghanistan, and by the same people who had established highly sophisticated global network of sympathizers.
It is now time for Afghanistan government and international community to support and encourage the PashtoonTahafuz Movement in Pakistan. Pashtoons are now standing for their rights. They understand that they were used as cannon fodders by ISI in the ongoing double standard and fake war against terrorism. They now know that it is time for them to regain their prestige and traditional Pashtoons lifestyle. They are tired of ISI playing religious and jihadist games to gain scores under Pakistan ‘strategic depth’ policy for Afghanistan. Their struggle will come to fruition very soon, though Pakistan military and intelligence establishment are already trying to sabotage and thwart the movement. Any attempt to stop this movement will doom to failure and backlash severely. Tribal areas will set free from the grip of religious fanatics and proxy groups playing at the hands of ISI inside Afghanistan. It will take time, but for sure this movement will succeed. In order to catch the fish, make the water muddy. Once all tribes unite, no ISI or other intelligence agencies can use their land as safe havens for proxy groups operating in Afghanistan. They will have no place for such operations. Therefore, it is time to openly support this movement both morally and financially. Cleaning up tribal areas from fanatics and proxy groups is not only good for Afghanistan, but it will bode well for Pakistan as well. This is time for Afghanistan government and international community to act in support of PashtoonTahafuz Movement.
The author is Master in Business Management – American University of Afghanistan– Chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kainaat Group of Companies (KGC) – business lines include: Construction, Logistics and Trading. Established 2002–have worked at UN agency called UNOCHA as Deputy Coordination Officer (DRCO) and was responsible for four provinces i.e. Herat, Farah, Ghor and Badghis from 1999 to 2001–Also worked at various international NGOs including ICRC, Solidarite Afghanistan-Belguim (SAB), CHF and Save the Children (UK) from the year 1997till 1999–also contested two parliamentary elections of the year 2005 and 2010.