PESHAWAR: The recent incidents of Pakhtun killings in Lahore and Quetta after their bloodshed in Karachi have added to the concern of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the safety of the community across the country.
The return of corpses of near and dear ones from all directions have strengthened the perception among the Pakhtuns that they are the softest target both for the state and non-state actors. Be it the tribal belt, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh or Balochistan, they are targetted by terrorists — “both in jeans and turbans,” — as some Awami National Party (ANP) leaders remarked.
For the last four decades, Pakhtuns on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border have been bearing the brunt of the ramifications of the “great game” being played on their soil. Afghanistan is still manned and governed with the support of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and people in Afghanistan have strong resentment against their presence.
People on this side of the border are also unhappy over the foreign occupation of Afghanistan. The Taliban, al-Qaeda and their likes have continued destroying the social fabric of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), converting the landscape into insecure, militarised and intolerant society. There is grim sense of insecurity both in terms of employment, freedom of expression, dialogue and discussion, not only in Fata but also in rest of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Suicide attacks, IEDs, target killings of tribal elders, political leadership, blast in mosques, shrines, and of course the drone attacks have enormously bled Pakhtuns. In 2009, Pakhtuns witnessed a similar plight in Swat when this once peaceful place was turned into a living hell virtually ruled by people with extremist mindset. To get rid of these forces, the Pakistan Army had to intervene with political backing and it witnessed a huge human tragedy of mass migration of nearly three million people in a short period of time.
The target killing of Pakhtuns in Karachi is nothing new and scores of bodies of Pakhtuns have been sent to villages and cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for burial.
The ruthless killing of under-training wardens of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa prisons in Lahore has, indeed, deepened the sense of insecurity among Pakhtuns. It has raised serious questions over the responsibility of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab governments for providing fail-safe security to the slain cops.
Balochistan, which had remained a Pakhtun-friendly province with huge Pakhtun presence, is no more a secure place for Pakhtuns. The kidnapping of coalminers and their subsequent murder followed by a bomb attack on ANP’s public gathering in Kuchlak near Quetta signifies a paradigm shift in Balochistan insurgency.
Has this been decided by those who pull the strings in Balochistan to start an ethnic strife in the province? If so, Pakhtuns are up to another fight for their survival. It is a fight against their will and imposed upon them by those who matter.
Attacks on Pakhtuns across the country raise two main questions: Is it the leadership that has failed to protect the Pakhtuns or is it the policy of the State that has resulted in collective insecurity of Pakhtuns?
It is evident that poverty and insecurity is the driving force for Pakhtun diaspora but in all its dimensions this paints a very grim picture of Pakhtuns’ plight.
What is the way forward or how can Pakhtuns get out of this quagmire appear to be a million dollar question. The Pakhtun leadership, unfortunately, is divided on the solution. Even the minimum agenda has not been agreed so far despite many jirgas in Kabul and Peshawar.
The Taliban are freedom fighters or terrorists, ISAF should leave forthwith or stay till calm prevails, Taliban interpretation of Shariah is the expression of true Islamic teaching or not are questions needing answers. What is the cost of peace for Pakhtuns and what are the basic requirements that must be met before peace prevails in this beautiful part of world is something the leadership should sit and decide.