Whatever The Heck Is Pashtun Long March And Everything You Should Know About It

By Alveena Jadoon | 9 Apr, 2018

Pashtun Long March took place on April 8 and it has been anecdotally called one of the largest peaceful protests that Pakistan has ever seen. But what exactly was this protest, that spanned the length and breadth of the country, all about?

 

It started with the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi which created an uproar in the country, among the Pashtun community

Naqeebullah was an ordinary citizen aspiring to be a model. However the Chief of Police of the Malir District in Karachi, Rao Anwar, ended up killing him in what is being called a “terrorist encounter”.

Source: dawn.com

 

This murder of an allegedly innocent young man under the garb of terrorism was noticed by human rights activists

There was an outcry against the murder on social media, where people rightfully questioned why an innocent citizen was killed in a fake encounter.

 

Naqeebullah belonged to the “Mehsud” tribe. These are Pashtuns, originally from the tribal belt of Pakistan and they felt it was an act of violence targeting Naqeebullah for his ethnicity

After the 9/11 attacks, the Pashtun tribe has been particularly targeted because of the way they “look”. The term “missing person” has become a part of the common vocabulary and over 1400 cases of enforced disappearances are lying pending before the Commission on the enquiry of these disappearances.

The tribal belt, particularly the area of Waziristan, came under fire for the influence of terrorists in the region. Pashtuns were persecuted in the process because of their looks and even those who fled the area could not have a decent life. A case in point is definitely that of Naqeebullah Mehsud.

 

This snowballed into what became the Pashtun Long March

This extrajudicial killing prompted this tribe to join forces and call out people to protest these brutalities resulting in the loss of life of several innocent people. And all because of lack of research and a particular profiling of a certain tribe to fit the extremist outlook.

The Pashtuns called for a country wide protest to register their protest against these killings and disappearances. According to them, there is a general negative behavior toward them from the state apparatus and they are generalized into being affiliated with “terror” outfits.

 

Pashtuns are the second largest ethnic community in Pakistan

They make up about 15 percent of the country’s population and they said that the treatment toward them has prompted them toward this movement to demand their rights, called the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement.

 

While many young people from the Pashtun community are at the center of this movement, one man, Manzoor Pashteen, has become its face

Manzoor hails from South Waziristan and hails from a family of eight siblings with a father who is a school teacher. He allegedly became involved in political activities around 2014 and he came to prominence when led protests to demonstrate the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud at the hands of Rao Anwar. Soon he became the founder of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement when more Pashtun tribes began joining his demonstrations.

manzoor-pashteen
Source: aljazeera.com

While Manzoor Pashteen has said Pakistan Army isn’t protecting the Pashtun community, Army Chief General Qamar Bajwa recently ensured Pashteen’s father that he, and the army, supported his fight for justice.

However, Pashteen has continued to criticize the role of the military, security agencies and the government. This has led to a criminal case being registered against him for his continual criticism despite assurance from the Army chief.

 

For the march that happened on April 8, Pashtuns said that their movement was inclusive of others who felt like them

Their main demand was for the authorities to listen to their concerns and not repeat history by ignoring and snubbing the voices of those aggrieved by the system in place.

 

A way of showing solidarity was wearing the Pashteen Cap

 

Here is what the protestors and supporters of the March is said to have achieved so far

  1. Despite the lack of mainstream media coverage, the youth have been able to mobilize people via social media and going from people to people to convince them of joining the movement;
  2. The movement has largely been very peaceful;
  3. The March has been very inclusive. They invited people from all walks of life to join the movement;
  4. They have managed to secure easy entry into FATA whereby residents of FATA areas recently cleared by the military only require their national identification document, and not the Watan Cards issued to them, to enter their homeland.

 

Mainstream media coverage was largely absent for the March and participants and observers were critical of that

While many thought that the government was imposing this “blackout”, Malik Achakzai, a journalist who covers conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan regions tweeted that there were technical difficulties in broadcasting about the March.

 

Regardless, there were a large number of people (many of them journalists associated with mainstream media companies) who remained critical of the mainstream media for its “blackout” over coverage given to the Pashtun Long March

 

At the rally on April 8, men and women participated in large numbers in the gathering

 

If such a huge number of people gathered to make their voices heard, this is not something to be ignored

Whatever grievances that the Pashtun community has deserve to be heard and given proper notice by the relevant authorities. Addressing genuine problems that various communities of our country raise will enable us to band together and fight against external forces that may want to cause problems. Ignoring such a large community will only result in further animosity and aggravate problems.

Here’s hoping that the Pashtun community can find answers to their problems because they’re an integral part of Pakistan with longstanding contributions to the development, security and improvement of this country.

 


Cover image via: @Stouryani1 / Twitter

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