#PashtunLongMarch: How many more Naqeebullahs have to die before we stop marginalising the Pashtun community?

Published: February 10, 2018
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A protestor holds a photograph of Naqeebullah Mehsud. PHOTO: AFP

Nobody could have guessed that the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud – an aspiring and flamboyant model hailing from South Waziristan – would result in an unprecedented and unyielding protest by the Pashtuns in the federal capital. What had begun as a demand for the arrest of former Malir SSP, Rao Anwar, has now turned into a protest to relay the comprehensive set of grievances of a marginalised people.

The participants of this long march, who are mostly from the tribal areas, are now calling for all cases of extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns to be exhaustively investigated in a judicial commission, under the aegis of the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP). They are also demanding for the perpetrators of such killings to be brought before the court of justice, along with the recovery of all missing persons forthwith, and the immediate removal of landmines in South Waziristan, in which many locals are reported to have either lost their lives or sustained life threatening injuries.

Tents and canopies have been set up at the site of the sit-in protest in front of the Islamabad Press Club. Though Mehsud’s cousin and the organiser of the march, Noor Rehman, clarified that the sit-in is utterly apolitical, he welcomed all the political parties to express their solidarity with the cause – a call several prominent politicians, including Asfandyar Wali, have championed. The protestors can be seen chanting slogans against the harassment of Pashtuns in Karachi and elsewhere in the country, and are unwilling to end their sit-in until all their demands are met. Their foremost demand, however, remains strict legal action to be taken against Anwar, who is believed to have also been involved in other fake encounters, purportedly killing over 300 innocent people.

As the sit-in entered its seventh day, a 15-member jirga met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and communicated their grievances to him, after which they were assured of all efforts being undertaken to meet their reasonable demands. However, thus far, it all seems like empty promises, as almost a month after Mehsud’s killing, Anwar remains at large.

Yes, Anwar was stopped at the Islamabad airport as he attempted to flee the country. However, despite a suo motu taken by the Supreme Court and a subsequent order to find Anwar, how has he managed to vanish into thin air?

The demands of the tribesmen, on the other hand, are entirely justified, in light of the fact that Mehsud was murdered in a fake encounter when he was presumed to be a terrorist, just on the basis of his ethnicity. The people of the tribal areas are the biggest victims of the war on terror, and have subsequently been displaced from their lands in the aftermath of military operations against the insurgents. Yet, despite their sacrifices, not only are they being doubted and discriminated against, their plight is also being ignored. Pashtun traders and vendors in metropolitan cities like Karachi and Lahore are treated differently, just because their ethnicity and language stands out from the rest. Mehsud’s cold-blooded murder at the hands of the police, and the fact that they did not even stop to verify a Pashtun man’s identity before killing him, only speaks volumes of the vulnerability of the Pashtun community in Karachi and beyond.

The way forward should be for the government to take this sit-in seriously, and truly look at answering the demands of the protestors. They need to address the issue of missing persons, who were picked up by the police without any substantial evidence, as well as grapple with the landmines, which could pose a serious disaster for the country if not dealt with immediately.

The consistent apathy and negligence of successive governments has only brought these tribesmen into the fragile and vulnerable position we see them in today. How many other Naqeebullah’s have to die before the authorities wake up from their deep slumber and realise the sensitivity of the issue which, if not settled amicably, will only exacerbate overtime? Why do the Pashtuns have to stage sits-in to demand the basic tenets of justice which should be guaranteed to all Pakistanis without any distinction? And lastly, why are the Pashtuns generalised and deemed terrorists, even though the fact is they have always stood by and fought for the nation whenever Pakistan is facing its enemies?

If this sit-in and the grievances of the Pashtuns are not taken seriously, one should not be surprised lest we should lose these tribal areas to foreign conspiracies and agendas. We are all Pakistanis first and foremost, and this fact should reflect in the nation expressing solidarity with the cause, with the entire country and not just Pashtuns coming together to demand justice for Mehsud. Displays of provincial and ethnic prejudices are extremely detrimental to the unity and solidarity of the country, and the gap will only be widened if the entire nation does not come together for the Pashtun cause.

The sit-in is the best way to demonstrate how unequivocal and unambiguous we are in our demand for the arrest and subsequent sentencing of Anwar, whose hands are stained with the blood of hundreds of innocent people. The sit-in has thus far remained peaceful and non-violent, which is why it is high time the federal government starts taking pragmatic steps aimed at ending the deprivation and alienation of the Pashtuns. After years of conflict, sacrifices and substandard treatment, this is necessary if they are to begin to live with some semblance of contentment and normalcy in their lives, and can have a reason to remain proud Pakistanis.

Naqeeb Hussain

Naqeeb Hussain

The author is a teacher from Parachinar. He tweets @NaqeebHussain18 (twitter.com/NaqeebHussain18)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Thurzan

    Totally agree with the author. Nicely writtenRecommend

  • Abdul Basit afridi

    In Pakistan we can’t or neither we try to solve the problem at its early stage, just as we did in faizabad dharna….
    And the other problem is quite horrific by being a resident of tribal area I know that we are facing terrorism,abduction,IDPs and the drone strikes but still we didn’t chant even a single Anti- Pakistan slogan although now the situations is quite change and the whole pashtun community are thinking that they are being marginalized.
    This attitude should be changed on the part of govt If we want to save these areas and their people from foreign conspiracies and we should try hard to make pak a great nation.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The author has allowed his sentiment to come in the way of what could have been a balanced write up to criticize the politicization of the police in Pakistan.Recommend

  • sterry

    Bad police officers are an embarrassment to the profession anywhere in the country. The police who are harassing any civilian are primarily motivated by greed and making easy money by shaking down civilians – regardless of ethnicity. The whole case needs to be investigated and charges laid if this was a case of an extortion attempt gone wrong as is alleged. The innocent man and his family should be compensated although there can be no adequate recompense for a life taken away.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Pashtun in this country not stood up with the nation to fight against enemies but they are always ahead on the front line from all others against the enemies and lay sacrifice their lives with all the bravery and valour.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Er, see, well, only one question :-
    Is this the same Pathan community, out by the thousands, in Mardan,
    who want all the convicted and sentenced murderers of Mashal Khan
    freed !! After due diligence, and following all the laws these heinous
    murderers were convicted in a court of law. They connived and murdered
    a 23 year old bright student. With false charges. And now the whole
    community is up in arms, defying the government, and want the murderers
    freed immediately. This is thousands and thousands of Pathans.
    What kind of mindset is this?Recommend

  • Patwari

    Why are they bad police officers to begin with? Because they don’t work for the citizens.
    They have no concepts of what it is to protect and serve the people. They buy their
    jobs or are there through ‘sifarish and lifafa’. They work for the owners of the provinces.
    Thanks to corrupt and three time deposed politicians like Nawaz and his cabal, who
    spent decades into morphing the police into their personal private security forces.
    These policemen are not even trained properly. Because the money for training and
    equipment is looted by the departments and the politicians. And what equipment is
    donated by Japan, Germany, USA, is sold on the black market…to other third world countries.
    Hope this helps you Humza.Recommend

  • sterry

    Your comments really don’t help any meaningful discussion since they are ad nausea repeats of the same boring phrases. You have nothing to add to any discussion since you are obsessed with one issue – you hate Nawaz Sharif which is fine by me but you have let yourself become so overcome by your hatred of him that you froth at the mouth and cannot focus. Tell me was Nawaz Sharif and his cabal at the helm when police in Karachi falsely shot Naqeebullah? I know you hate Punjabis and Pashtuns and anyone who is not a Muhajir from India but take a deep breath and understand that this is an issue of civilians deserving better policing and justice. Do you blame all the police abuse and violence in your Indian homeland on Nawaz Sharif too? Try to understand what is being said and then formulate a logical response!Recommend

  • sterry

    Just reread your infantile gibberish and try to think about why you have become the person you have. Now you are crying about Imran Khan’s daughter and placing all of Pakistan’s malaise at the feet of Nawaz Sharif and not focusing on this article which is about Naqueebullah who was falsely targeted and whose family deserves justice. I think your inability to focus is one thing but your single minded obsession is consuming you. Do you not think that all political leaders come and go or have a finite life ? My hopes in a better Pakistan aren’t dashed at all – the difference is that I believe a better Pakistan can be achieved by many elected leaders. Neither PML N nor PTI nor PPP have an exclusive monopoly on making things better but I support any party that does. The country you call Pakland is my home- the same way the land you call India is your home. You can try talking about underdogs and the sacrifices of Muhajirs but you fool no one since your loyalty has always been with India. It’s not about underdogs or Modi or what is going on in India – I couldn’t care less about what goes on in your Indian homeland. I find it amusing that what goes on in our country and your hatred of people in Pakistan occupies your every minute and seems to consume you. That’s what is really sad.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    Knowing the history of waziri tribesmen, I would not be surprised if the disaapearance of the police officer responsible for the extra judicial murder of Mr Mahsud occured to avoid vengence kidnapping by the wazri tribe.

    Rex MinorRecommend