Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa recently warned that a “hybrid war” had been imposed on Pakistan to internally weaken it, but expressed his resolve that the enemies would fail to divide the country on the basis of ethnicity and other identities. It was the second time in a week that the army chief had indirectly referred to a new movement launched in the name of rights of the Pashtun people.
The sudden rise of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), its social media activities and extensive media coverage, especially in India, Afghanistan, Britain and the US, prove the involvement of a foreign hand. It held a rally in Lahore on April 21 and the BBC carried it with the headline: Manzoor Pashteen, the young tribesman rattling the Pakistan army. “Tens of thousands of Pashtuns are demanding an end to extrajudicial killings and abductions they blame on the Pakistani state – and a charismatic young man has become their spokesman. A compelling, bearded tribesman in his late 20s, Manzoor Pashteen is the unlikely figurehead for protests that have now mushroomed into a wider movement that threatens to upset a precarious balance ahead of general elections. He represents people who say they were brutalised during decades of war in the border areas Pakistan shares with Afghanistan. NGOs say thousands of people have been reported missing in regions such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan. Over the weekend thousands of people attended a rally in Lahore, defying calls from the authorities to boycott the event, and despite officials briefly detaining some leaders of the movement in raids,” it reported.
The rally, held at Lahore’s historic Mochi Gate, was also supported by PML-N leaders Maryam Nawaz and Senator Pervez Rashid publically. PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen announced the formation of a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to address the “plight of people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA.” According to experts, a glaring indicator of subversion is the massive coverage being given to PTM protests in the Indian and Afghan media apart from American sources such as the officially-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Even the mainstream American press, such as The New York Times, has also joined the chorus. It comes at a time when Indian officials, like National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, are on record have boasted of promoting terrorism and separatism in Pakistan. It is also well known now, especially after disclosures by Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, that the Indian intelligence agency, RAW, has an active programme to destabilise Pakistan by funding and arming the Taliban in cooperation with the Afghan government which has provided sanctuaries to them on Afghan soil. Similar support is being given to Baloch separatists as well. Extending such a programme to include Pashtuns is only a small step for RAW.
Moreover, Afghans, like former President Hamid Karzai and the then head of NDS, the Afghan spy agency, Amrullah Saleh, have been and still are hand in glove with the Indians to promote dissensions within Pakistan, including by enlisting discontented Pashtun and Baloch groups. A further motive for Delhi and Kabul has been the failure of their efforts to use the Taliban and terrorism to destabilise Pakistan following a successful Pakistani counterterrorism campaign that has significantly reduced incidents of terrorism in the country. The Americans have turned a blind eye to the machinations of their Indian and Afghan allies, as a means to exert pressure on Pakistan to come on to their line. A collateral outcome of the destabilisation campaign has been to sow dissensions between the Pakistani people, especially the Pashtuns and Baloch, against the army. Unfortunately, some of our political and intellectual elites have fallen prey to it. They fail to understand that it is not only a conspiracy against the army but also Pakistan and its people.
Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa must have some reason when he spoke about “engineered protests” and a “hybrid war” while referring to the agitation by the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), triggered by the killing of a young Pashtun, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in Karachi by a rogue police official now under trial. “Some internal and external elements are hell-bent upon harming Pakistan’s national security and that our enemies have subjected us to a cruel, evil and protracted hybrid war.” He added that the protests had been instigated to undo the gains made by the armed forces in the fight against terrorism. Irrespective of the genuine grievances being expressed by the PTM, there can be no doubt that inimical external forces and their touts within the country are determined to use the grievances to undermine Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity as well as reverse the gains made against externally-supported terrorism. We should be clear that, yet again, Pakistan is being subjected to engineered subversion — this time by misleading and manipulating Pakistani Pashtuns, just as is being done with the Baloch.
The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement has been peaceful until recently. There is a need to address and resolve the genuine grievances of the Pashtuns. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has admitted that many demands of the PTM are genuine. “I will meet Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discuss with him easing security checkposts and removing landmines, besides the core issue of missing persons of FATA,” he told a FATA Convention recently. There is no doubt that the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, especially, FATA have suffered immensely due to terrorism and extremism. Their lives and families have been torn apart, their homes and villages destroyed, hundreds and thousands are missing. Youths are unemployed and dispossessed. These are ideal conditions for our enemies to exploit. An urgent solution to their problems is the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhunkhwa. Economic development and employment generation should also be expedited to wean the youths away from another movement, which could pose serious threats to the country in the name of rights.