The Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has come up with highly sensitive demands, therefore it needs to be handled with extra care, both by the government as well as the armed forces. Some of the demands, as observers opine, are popularly acceptable and if met then most of the PTM grievances can automatically be settled. However, given the PTM agenda, its unfolding campaign and changing course of propaganda which is taking head-on the Pakistan armed forces and the very existence of Pakistan, one is compelled to believe that there is some hidden design as if directed by the enemy.
Although the enemy onslaught this time, through launching of the PTM, is believed to be extremely lethal, yet one is also convinced that the enemies have made a serious blunder, while hatching it at their headquarters, by misreading yet again the prowess of the Pakistan military, the collective understanding of the Pakistani nation and the fore drawn conclusions of the so- called sponsored handlers of PTM.
How absurdly the PTM has been fed to project the unimaginable theme that “none other than the Army itself is running the TTP!” An army that has sacrificed more than 5,000 of its soldiers and officers while fighting the TTP, over 15,000 have got injured, maimed or crippled, many of them can be seen at AFIRM centre of military hospitals in Rawalpindi, Lahore and other cities. The martyrs and the injured include sepoys, lance naiks, naiks, havildars, NCOs, lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels, brigadiers and generals. Four generals – Mushtaq Baig, Bilal Umar, Sanaullah Niazi and Javed Sultan – have laid down their lives in this war against the TTP and other terrorist groups.
If the Pakistan army is running the TTP, then how come, the children of army personnel were massacred at the Army Public School (APS) Peshawar; the terrorist attack was admittedly conducted by the TTP on 16 December, 2014. How come the army-run educational institutes, cadet colleges and hospitals are attacked and damaged by the TTP which the PTM says is run by the army? How could TTP terrorists attack mosques in garrisons, like Parade Lane Mosque Rawalpindi, where most of the namazis were people from the army, soldiers and officers, and their sons and elders? How come TTP terrorists dared to slit the throats and behead tens of army jawans and officers, Col. Imam and Khalid Khwaja including? How can an army run the murderers of its own men? TTP terrorists attacked Mehran Base Karachi, Kamra Base Rawalpindi, Budhber Base Peshawar, ISI buildings across country, even the General Headquarters Rawalpindi. Those martyred in these incidents also included soldiers who belonged to the Pashtun belt in FATA and KP. The pertinent question is why then no Tahaffuz movement was launched by Pashteen-like people to save their dear ones from the terrorists of TTP?
Doesn’t the PTM know that the government delayed operation in North Waziristan for many years. And the demand came from tribal people themselves. Terrorists had killed more than 500 Maliks in agencies as they had refused to play into their hands. Terrorists, both local and foreign, used to hijack the locals; they either kidnapped or bought girls to marry them. This became a cause of exploiting the locals. Hundreds of youth were coerced to join the terrorists or otherwise were killed or disappeared. Journalist Hayatullah’s murder disclosed the modus operandi of the terrorists. Only in Bajaur before the launch of Operation Sherdil (6 August, 2008 to 31 March, 2010) hundreds were killed, kidnapped or disappeared. The terrorists consolidated their positions with help from Afghanistan. The army was to suffer 75 martyrs and 383 injured; the FC had 72 shaheeds and 208 injured, while the Levies had 16 shaheeds and 16 injured, totaling 163 martyrs and 607 injured.
Why the people of NWA forcefully demanded on army operation, was because they were impressed over the successful conducting of the Swat operation and smooth transfer, return and rehabilitation of displaced people. At the launch of the Operation, the residents of NWA willingly evacuated their homes and shifted to makeshift camps in order to facilitate the army against terrorists. So collateral damage remained minimum. Analysts like Rahimullah Yusufzai, Afrasiab Khattak, Shamim Shahid, Aqeel Yousafzai, Rustam Khan Mohmand, Mahmood Shah, and Asad Munir had also demanded the same, besides political agents, maliks and jirga heads. Yet conducting the operation was not easy because the terrorists were hiding behind human shields; difficult for the army but easy for terrorists to aim at a target. For this reason, the army bore casualties in its bid to save the lives of the civil population.
The PTM’s accusation that 36,000 people, including 1,400 women, were missing from areas of operation, seems not only incorrect but beyond logic. Those missing could not be with the army. Instead, the persons the PTM claims missing must be those who joined the TTP for money or through intimidation, or many had crossed into Afghanistan to join Fazlullah or other terror groups operating against Pakistan. They were either used as suicide bombers or took part in terrorist attacks against the Pakistani security forces.
Reports suggest that the TTP had been giving a salary to each Taliban fighter from Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000. The boys trained for suicide bombing, who have been arrested by security forces, and are now undergoing rehabilitation in de-radicalization centres, confirmed that each bomber was entitled to receive a briefcase full of money, before embarking on a suicide mission, which their handlers used to deliver at their homes. The boys undergoing de-radicalization are not missing nor have disappeared; they are duly registered. Most teen-agers are kidnappees hailing from Punjab. Therefore, the PTM’s claim of missing persons seems aimed at inciting public sentiment.
Why the PTM’s emergence coincides with Pakistan’s fencing of the 2,600-km Afghan border is obvious: The TTP hiding inside Afghanistan, RAW and other agencies inimical to Pakistan had a free hand to cross over and conduct terror inside Pakistan, especially in FATA and KP. Why did Kabul, the ISAF and NATO oppose fencing, when they had long been claiming that perpetrators of terror incidents in Afghanistan were coming from Pakistan? Wasn’t it in their interest to take the initiative of fencing the border from their side? Isn’t it in their interest while Pakistan is erecting the fence, which would equally help them to stop entry of unwanted people? Why the PTM opposes fencing is because it is the Afghan agenda, as Ashraf Ghani and others have announced support to Pashteen. The PTM serves their cause because infiltration will be difficult after fencing.
Who is funding the PTM? How can the displaced people of FATA, Manzoor Pashteen included, who were unable to manage their own living, are able to arrange sit-ins one after another in different cities across Pakistan, and to hold long marches from Peshawar to Islamabad and from Quetta to Karachi? This is not possible without heavy amounts pouring in from abroad. Who is running the media campaign of the otherwise “neglected” education-deprived’ part of Pakistan, who do not have laptops or even cell phones? Pashteen has reportedly Facebook/ Twitter accounts with name of “ILLITERATI”. The way the PTM projects its point of view seems to have a thorough preparation, training and coaching. Slogans being chanted against the army doesn’t seem to be creation of ordinary people.
Ironically, certain “liberal” media stalwarts on TV channels, newspapers, Facebook or Twitter, are writing articles, tweets and social media posts projecting Pashteen as a larger than life figure or an intellectual. The articles appearing in the international media like VOA, BBC, Al-Jazeera attempt to glorify the PTM in a “heroic” way. It is a fact of fake news, that the more it is reiterated, and by so-called established sources, the greater the possibility of its acceptance.
The conclusion drawn in the recently held Corps Commanders conference again leads to the just demand for merger of FATA with KP. Besides, issues like those of displaced people, their resettlement and creating bread-earning initiatives must be resolved at the earliest. FATA reforms must include the agenda of offering Pashtun youth better opportunities, working environment and development in their areas. The army has done a lot on ongoing projects in FATA, including hundreds of kilometers of roads network, water and irrigation schemes, schools, colleges, cadet colleges, hospitals, dispensaries, nursing houses, lady health visitor facilities and business opportunities.
Army Chief General Javed Bajwa has rightly questioned the motive of the PTM campaign, saying just days after peace and stability returned to the tribal areas, some people launched a movement to disrupt normalcy there. “Some internal and external elements are hell-bent upon harming Pakistan’s national security. But I want to tell them that the armed forces with the support of the people of Pakistan will not let their ulterior motives succeed.” However, the governments as well as the army need to read the sensitivity and timing of the PTM’s coming into the limelight and take it as an opportunity to solve lingering issues in the tribal areas. Luckily, we have a strong base in KP and there are voices more powerful against the PTM and its designs that may prove to be deleterious to the stability and security of Pakistan.