PTM and its foreign supporters stand exposed!

Iqbal Khan

Pakistan voted last year to merge its borderlands’ territories, once known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), into the country’s political and legal mainstream. At a stroke, the move assigned the region’s five million residents — the vast majority of them from the ethnic Pashtun minority — the same constitutional rights as other Pakistanis, including access to the national civilian justice system.

Earlier, theses territories had been run under a harsh frontier code set up long ago by the British colonial masters that had placed tribal regions under the near-absolute powers of provincial Governor. Residents were denied basic rights like access to lawyers or normal trials, and collective punishment to entire tribe for the crimes of an individual was common. Then there was no ManzoorPashteen or the likes of Pashtun Tahaffaz Movement (PTM).

ManzoorPashteen, the dubious leader of the PTM said that the recent campaign by the security forces had made a lie of last year’s abolition of the old colonial justice code. “It is very obvious now that FATA and its administrative strings are still in the hands of the army,” he said, “In the current authoritarian governance of the army, we don’t think justice could prevail”, he added. Nothing could be farther from truth.

Discrediting Pakistan’s military is a well-known international agenda. There is a nexus of those counties who are likely beneficiaries if Pakistani military gets weakened. Media of such counties operate in a syndicated way. Articles which criticise Pakistan’s military get prominent placing and longer display times. Such material goes viral at a phenomenal pace. Well financed writers are employed to weave fabricated pieces by falsifying the facts. There are well-connected writers, reporters and anchors making a lot of money just by painting Pakistani military black.

One Pakistani-American columnist, Mohammad Taqi considers FATA as a media black hole, as according to him “FATA area even today remains a no-go zone – as it has been for nearly two decades – for independent media”. And still he claims that he has filed a true story, what a contradiction indeed.

In his recent article captioned “What’s Next for Pakistan’s Pashtun Movement After a Brutal Army Crackdown”, carried by a number of outlets including The Wire, a multilingual Indian news website. Writer has tried to give prominence and credence to PTM’s narrative of an incident in which a military check post was attacked PTM workers. Taqi has portrayed that: “Tension boiled over on May 26, when the security forces shot into a crowd of protesters in the North Waziristan tribal area as they travelled to a sit-in, leaving at least 13 dead. PTM activists and witnesses said the demonstrators were unarmed. The authorities say that demonstrators opened fire first, hurting several officers, though video clips of the demonstration have not shown that”.

He has claimed that Pakistan army shot and killed at least 13 civilians and injured dozens or more at a sit-in staged by the PTM as previously threatened by DG ISPR.  Taqi’s story says:   “The Pakistan army shot and killed at least 13 civilians and injured dozens more at a sit-in staged by the PTM, in the tribal North Waziristan district of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

The Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General AsifGhafoor, swiftly alleged that the PTM had attacked an army check-post and the soldiers acted in self-defense. What was even more malicious in the unfounded allegation was the army spokesman’s claim the PTM’s two parliamentarians MohsinDawar and Ali Wazir had led an armed assault on the army”. Just in one go all the facts have been falsified by Taqi.

Taqi has refuted that PTM workers led by Ali Wazir and MohsinDawer had attacked army check-post; “Within 24 hours, however, video clips had emerged indicating that other than raising their voice and slogans, the protesters had not launched any assault – armed or otherwise – on the army positions. In one clip, a few lads are seen trampling on the tin roof of a deserted sentry’s cabin, but not a single frame shows the crowd pelting as much as a stone at army personnel”. Belittling the state effort on missing and displaced persons, writer says: “A judicial commission had been investigating the disappearances without much to show for results”. Writer also contests the official statements that PTM was peddling an Indo-Afghan agenda and receiving foreign funding.

Writer takes an erratic line that “army was simply carrying out the threat, which the DGISPR had arrogantly issued a few weeks ago, when he had proclaimed: “they [the PTM] have taken as much liberty as they could; their time is up”. And goes on to pours the venom: “When all one has is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and that has been true of the Pakistan army on dozens of occasions from dealing with East Pakistan’s Bengalis, to the Baloch nationalists, to the pro-democracy Sindhis, to the Muhajirs of Karachi, and even the Punjabi tenants of its farms”. This is a too familiar narrative often pushed forward by Indian government.

Taqi goes on to make his story more and more anti-Pakistan by compressing in as many anti-Pakistan issues as he could to some one’s pleasure:

“But why is the world’s sixth largest army, with the fastest growing nuclear arsenal, worried sick about a ragtag civil rights movement from the Pashtun backwaters?” See how nuclear issue has just been brought in while the issue is just of law and order. To please his Afghan string pullers, he adds on: “For decades, the army has kept FATA under tight control.

The army essentially carried on with the British policy of a double frontier where the Durand Line formed a working boundary between the FATA and Afghanistan but a second, internal boundary separated the FATA from mainland Pakistan”. Writer’s Afghan funding is so evident as he is scared of using the word “international border” for Duran Line. Actually, Army had never been deployed in such areas until beginning of post 9/11 counter terrorism operations by international forces under the UN mandate.

He adds on that: “Many of the displaced tribal people are still languishing in refugee camps. And those who have returned, face constant humiliation at the hands of the army at scores of check-points dotting the region. He is oblivious to the fact that over one million people were displaced for such operations. Rehabilitating them back is essentially a gigantic situation, that too when the general area is not yet free of trouble maker, of the like whose cause writer pretends to champion.

Presenting PTM as innocent grouping, writer falsifies the facts by saying; “The PTM became the voice of these voiceless people and championed all these issues, and more. It has remained unequivocally nonviolent and consistently demanded full implementation of the Pakistani constitution and laws in the former FATA regions.

He shamelessly adds “those of us familiar with the movement’s finances know very well not a single Afghani has been given by the Kabul government. The movement is run by donations from Pashtun and non-Pashtun supporters within and outside Pakistan”. Overall, Taqi’s article is like a charge sheet against Pakistan army; written by a Pakistani stooge in exchange for lavish Indo-Afghan funding. Much like such other anti-army articles, this piece also got an unexpectedly immense mainstream and social media coverage through a premediated and well executed plan.