The Afghan War has stood the test of time and resurged itself in a world that is much more different than when the war first started. Nobody could have predicted that one day US would recognise the Taliban as legitimate stakeholders in Afghanistan, and sit across from them in deciding the fate of this region. In all of this, Pakistan has played a crucial role. Willingly becoming a front-line state in this global war on terrorism has had repercussions for the state of Pakistan; governance and foreign policy decisions, all of which have been predominantly determined by how the security apparatus would decipher this conflict.

In trying to understand the magnitude of this conflict, specifically in terms of what it means for Pakistan, the policymakers both at home and abroad have been unable to chalk out a set of governing principles and a digestible narrative for the people. And it is because of this fallacy that while the war has manifested itself deep within the societal fabric, still largely remains misinterpreted.

In a democratic state, people expect their ideals to be represented in the policies of the state, and that they have some information about what is happening. On the basis of these, a domestic consensus is created. In Pakistan, the affairs of the state have been dealt by dictatorial regimes convincing people of serving their interests, and the democratic governments adopting a hard line to put down any dissent that could challenge the ‘writ of the state’. In both of these, the necessary domestic consensus that could have lent support to the democratic process has not been developed.

So, while we live a few hundred kilometers away from the regions where the conflict still persists; a large faction of the society still questions the legitimacy of the war; a narrative developed by the security and intelligence establishment surrounding the struggles, and the counteractive measures that have had to be taken with matters related to governance. It is because of this fast-fed agenda through subtle media coverage, and the slow-paced information sharing that the state has been unsuccessful in incorporating human voices to its larger national security discourse. While some would argue that a state-crafted national security discourse would have no place for the incorporation of people’s voice; however, the pace at which people have drawn out their support to the armed forces, and the recent emergence of dissenting factions like the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) point the argument towards an unheard, unaccounted-for concern.

The PTM which formalised itself last year, just a little before the elections, has emerged as a dent on the white-washed moral conscience of the state. It is a symbol of a people who have thrived under displacement, ethnic-profiling, and withdrawal from economic opportunity. After emerging, the movement quickly gained traction and has been openly supported by the state’s Leftists. The movement’s chairperson Manzoor Pashteen and his narrative through his story and plight of Pashtuns has resonated with a lot of people, all around the world.

Despite government and establishment’s relentless efforts in curbing opposition, the rushed ‘mainstreaming of FATA’ as the integration of historically unheeded people has come to be known, hasn’t materialised.

To then think that these marginalised and suppressed voices would align themselves with the greater nationalist agenda that doesn’t even incorporate their voice, would be a folly. Alienation of victims of war from a state’s narrative can be as dangerous as arming opposition.

Not only do these Pashtuns suffer from racial segregation and ethnic profiling, but a sense of general ‘othering’ which gives them less legitimacy as Pakistanis and more as Pashtuns with origins from Afghanistan. Our shared history of violence and insurgency becomes something that was crafted and fought only in the north-western parts of the country, as a part of only their reality.

While some elements of the PTM could be taken as against the precepts on which the state stands; there is no denying that the underlying grievances are legitimate and warrant state involvement. These people and their voices can no longer be brushed aside as anomalies of the state.

With the U.S. sitting with Taliban and deciding the fate of Afghanistan, Pakistan still has to own the war, its repercussions and understand that it can only move ahead internationally if it’s able to maintain order at home.