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To show the solidarity with Afghans against Taliban, Pashtuns of all hues holding massive rally in Pakistan

Massive protest of Pashtuns against state oppression held in Peshawar (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@PashtunTM_Offi)

Social media is buzzing. A large gathering of Pashtun leaders is being held on July 27, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan’s “wild west” on the issue of Afghanistan. Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a civil society group composed of ethnic Pashtuns living in Pakistan's tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, and parts of Karachi, has organised the “jalsa” in support of the peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“MNA @mjdawar is inviting you all to attend the #PTM upcoming jalsa which will hold on 27th July in Makin S. Waziristan in order to show solidarity with the people of Afghanistan & to support the peace & stability in Afghanistan. #PTMMakinMarch4AfghanPeace “

The PTM has seen strong support of Pashtuns from neighbouring Afghanistan, which has an uneasy relationship with the government of Pakistan, amplified by a massive trust-deficit.  The PTM leaders have criticized the Pakistani military establishment for terrorising Pashtuns. 

The senior leader of the PTM and Member of Pakistani National Assembly says that the eminent jurists, lawyers, intellectuals are going to participate in the large gathering of all Pashtun leaders to discuss Afghanistan and consult for lasting peace in the country.

Mohsin Dawar has consistently spoken against the torture and killings of Pashtuns who are treated by the Pakistani authorities as "third-class citizens".  Dawar is an ardent critic of Pakistan and Taliban relations and their activities in Afghanistan.

About a fortnight ago, he tagged a video of Taliban leaders roaming freely in Quetta and posted on his twitter account.

“Taliban terrorists continue to roam freely in different parts of Pakistan including Quetta. Such brazenness is not possible without the state’s consent. Killers of Afghans and thousands of our people are being supported openly. We will continue to oppose such suicidal policies,” he said.

Dawar has been quite vocal against Pakistan’s policy towards the Taliban and Afghanistan.

“Despite losing thousands of Pakistanis, the State refuses to change its policies. Look at the way the Establishment controlled media is exaggerating Taliban achievements in Afghanistan. If Taliban are so dear to the Establishment, then why not select them for Pakistan as well,” in his speech in the National assembly earlier this month.

“Pakistan is once again repeating the mistakes that its military and political leaders of the past and present have lamented. Once again Pakistan is sowing the seeds in Afghanistan the fruits of which will be harvested here as well. #StopAfghanBloodshed before it's too late,” he justified the allegations by the Afghan government on Pakistan fighting along with the Taliban inside Afghanistan.

“Taliban are exported to Afghanistan from here while the FM and President justify @AmrullahSaleh2's claims about Pakistan's role in Afghanistan with their statements. Dead bodies of Taliban fighters are brought back to Pakistan for burial. Taliban continue being supported openly.”

During a meeting with the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, he raised the issue of “forced disappearances” in Balochistan and KP and the problem of Pashtuns but he was “threatened” by the military establishment and was told to “keep quiet.”

Over the last two years, PTM has been hitting the streets for the constitutional rights for Pashtuns living in Pakistani tribal areas. At 35 million, Pashtuns are the largest single ethnic group in Pakistan. The organisation has been organising peaceful protests demanding greater accountability from the Pakistani army, which has “waged” the war on terrorism as an excuse to kidnap, kill and intimidate citizens living in the northwest area.

“We demand an end to the Pakistani army’s support for the terrorists, who are now regrouping again,” he said in his last rally in January this year, “When the Pakistani regime recruits Pashtuns for war and terrorism, it considers us patriots. But when we ask for our rights, we are no longer even considered Pakistanis,” Dawar told the gathering.

Also Read: Afghanistan has warned Pakistan to close safe havens and stop supporting Taliban

Since Pakistani media have been ignoring them, the PTM  has been extensively using social media to get messages out.

The PTM has been regarded by the Pashtuns, especially from the tribal belt, who have suffered a lot because of continued operations by the Pakistan Army in the pretext of fighting anti-state elements, as the true representative of their voice. They feel that as a social movement, PTM has been able to articulate their grievances well through peaceful sit-ins, protest marches, and enthusiastic use of all forms of media.

Over the years, Pakistan has carried out several military operations against armed groups, including the Taliban in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The region, which has been merged with the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018, has long been used as a base by the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other local and international armed terror groups, including al-Qaeda.