Silencing Bullets

The Pakistan government’s approach of talking to the
PTM will bring dividends in the form of loyalty and
support from the people of the tribal belt.

By Muhammad Waqar Rana | September 2020
Manzoor Pashteen addressing a public gathering.

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) appeared on the scene in 2014 in foggy circumstances. With a catchy name, beguiling slogans and a symbolic cap, it was based on prejudices and grievances of the tribal people. It apparently found support within the educated but jobless youth and simple village folk. Underneath the five points agenda announced at the Peshawar Rally in 2018, there were several trappings. Aggressive postures and fiery speeches at the rally by the PTM leadership apparently played to the enemies’ orchestra from across the border. This obviously sent a wave of concern across the country. The state, however, ignored it in the backdrop of victories achieved in military operations against the terrorists after making huge sacrifices of blood and tears for the safety and security of the country.

The Movement succeeded in getting elected two of its outspoken members as members of the National Assembly in the 2018 General Elections. Owing to the political vacuum resulting from the demise of the ‘malik system’, collapse of the political agent system and inability of the criminal justice system under the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) to punish the miscreants after the emergence of the Taliban movement, the military operation in the erstwhile tribal areas became inevitable. As a result, almost the whole of the tribal belt was unfortunately uprooted and displaced and this resulted in unavoidable suffering as collateral damage. The state, despite all possible efforts, lacked resources to fully extend comfort to the affectees. PTM discovered a fertile ground to put its roots down and grow on a negative substratum.

The federal government’s response to the PTM was measured and calculated from the beginning. A two-pronged strategy was adopted which invited the PTM leadership for talks to address genuine grievances. At the same time, the threat of force from some elements within the PTM was responded to with determination.

The federal government’s latest invitation for talks is a welcome step. It reflects on the government’s consistent position towards the PTM - that it is willing to listen to its point of view and address all genuine grievances raised on behalf of the people of the erstwhile FATA. The government’s position is based on a genuine assessment of the situation that it is apparently a political matter which should be resolved through talks. At the same time, the government realizes that any further delay in resolving grievances have the potential of their exploitation by foreign enemies, particularly India and its proxies in Afghanistan who have access to the local elements due to a long porous border.

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The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and former additional attorney general of Pakistan. He holds an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School and is the co-author of a book ‘Comparative Constitutional Law.’ He can be reached at mwaqarrana@yahoo.com

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