The Pakistani journalist, writer, and human rights activist, Fazal-Ur Rehman Afridi, had said that there is a great misconception about Pashtuns residing in Pakistan. The Pakistani Army has used gunship helicopters, artillery, and F-16 bombers against innocent Pashtuns using the guise of fighting terror. Though the Pakistani army has taken such efforts to fight terror, they seem to have not killed a single terrorist or Taliban fighter during their operations. All the terrorists killed in this period in Pakistan have been thanks to US drones. The Pashtun minority has suffered a lot at the hands of the Pakistani regime in the last 20 years.
Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, with 48% of the country’s population. They have been the dominant ethnolinguistic group in Afghanistan since the nation’s founding. Additionally, are the second-largest ethnic group in Pakistan, forming 15% to 18% of the country’s total population. After the Partition of India in 1947, some Pashtuns called for the creation of Pashtunistan, carved from the Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although this idea remains alive among hardline Pashtun nationalists. Presently, most Pashtuns, believe that they are the rightful rulers of the country, based on the history of the past 300 years when Pashtun dynasties ruled Afghanistan.
Some Pashtun tribes claim descent from Arabs, some to be Sayyids (descendants of Muhammad), Some from Greeks who arrived with Alexander the Great, Some from Ghilji having settled in the Hindu Kush area and began to assimilate much of the culture and language of the Pashtun tribes already present there. However, according to Rabbi Harry Rozenberg, there is a presence of historical, physical, and anecdotal evidence to establish a genetic connection between Pashtun and Israelites (biblical Lost Tribes of Israel). It’s an old theory, passed on to generations, and many Pashtun tribes proudly subscribe to it. Therefore, they are a large Eastern Iranian ethnic group that uses the Pashto language and follow the Pashtunwali code of conduct.
The Pashtuns are the men who defended against Alexander the Great, in return he commented “may God keep you away from the venom of the cobra, the teeth of the tiger, and the revenge of the Afghans” in 330 BC. They opposed the Soviet invasion, the American invasion, and also the British intrusion. The British later divided the Pashtun lands in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan by drawing the Durand Line. This drastically reduced Pashtun demographic superiority in Afghanistan. Opposition to the Durand Line was the principal reason, why Afghanistan voted against Pakistan’s admission to the UN in 1947.
The systematic suppression and involuntary disappearances have been declared by many Human Rights Organizations, local political parties, and analysts as the slow-motion genocide of the Pashtun people. The Pakistani army has unleashed a reign of terror against innocent civilians with impunity in Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Pakistan has not spent any money for the rehabilitation of people, and the construction of destroyed homes, markets, schools, and other infrastructures, despite receiving billions of dollars in aid.
This all is being done for the shack of land needed for CPEC projects, and to extract the mineral resources of the Baloch and Pashtun region, against the will and involvement of locals. Thousands of people have been removed from their houses by force, hundred of houses are burned, and many have a victims of enforced disappearance and elimination. The army is indulging in an illegal arrest, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detention of many well-known human rights activists such as Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen, Idrees Khattak, and Hazrat Naeem Abdul Qayum, alias Gilaman Pashteen, on false charges of sedition.
The issue was raised by Fazal-ur Rehman Afridi, a Pashtun political activist, during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. The protestors have been demanding the compensation of more than 90,000 destroyed houses and 8,000 shops and markets in Miranshah. The PTM (Pashtun Tahafuz Movement) demands to set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission under the UN to investigate the human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by the Pakistan Army in the former FATA that is Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Because after 2008 Great changes are happening in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The movement also claims military support to Pakistani Taliban (also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) militants. The Taliban are being allowed to return to the tribal areas in a secret deal with the military. One of its slogans translates to: “This terrorism behind it is the uniform.”
Article 15 of the Pakistani constitution provides freedom of movement and rights to do any protest. Although, whenever you raise the voice against the fascist Pakistan army for committing extrajudicial killing and abduction they muzzle the voice. Therefore, the Freedom of speech has become one of the most concerning issues. Despite being a right under the Constitution journalists, writers, intellectuals, and rights activists continue to face political and religious policing, on the way to report utter truth. For example, the authorities have put restrictions on, Manzoor Pashteen (an activist), to travel abroad and raise the voice against atrocities on Pashtuns. They even blocked his national identity to stop running any sort of movement in Pakistan. The Pashtun were joined by activists from Balochistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir, who condemn the brutality of the Pakistani army. The members of Pashto an ethnic minority have long believed that they have been targets of military operations, ethnic stereotyping, and post disappearance and fake encounters by Pakistani security forces. The people of Pashtun are seen living in a military garrison and facing elimination daily being regularly harassed at checkpoints and treated with suspicion, and that landmines continue to make their lives insecure.
How is this Issue Connected to India?
Pakistani officials have always falsely accused India, UAE, and Russia of meddling in the internal politics of Pakistan. Since the inception of the Non-Alignment Movement by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, India has always followed the policy of ‘Panchsheel.’
- Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,
- Mutual non-aggression,
- Mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs,
- Equality and mutual benefit, and
- Peaceful co-existing.
If the Indian Prime Minister took interest in the issue, then we will have a tectonic shift from our traditional foreign policy of non-interference. However, as we had seen earlier that, India’s refusal to publicly criticize, let alone denounce, the Soviet invasion of 1979, ended up doing India great harm in the eyes of its traditional friends in Afghanistan, the Pashtuns. It also provided Pakistan greater scope to curry favor with Afghanistan’s largest and traditionally dominant ethnic group.
United Nation may not take it into concern, as many members of it are themselves, systematic human rights offenders. Sometimes, the council ignores the worst cases of human rights abuses in favor of “softer” topics like the elderly, children, and the disabled. It occasionally prioritizes pet projects over common concerns and fails to follow through on the implementation of its own decisions and recommendations.
India must take the Pashtun factor into account while fashioning its policy toward Afghanistan in anticipation of American withdrawal. If India fails to develop a healthy strategy it may provide Pakistan a greater scope to develop favor with Afghanistan’s largest and traditionally dominant ethnic Pashtun group. India’s help would maintain better relations with neighbors, ensure the energy security of the country, and also help to counter China.