The last few years have seen Pakistanis turn to the streets, passionate and aware of their rights, and march for what they believe in. We have seen many protests movements, some of them unnecessary such as the 2013 dharna, and some protests movements downright destructive like Faizabad.
If, however, there ever was a protest movement that Pakistan needed to go through, now more than ever, is the largely unreported movement among Pashtuns from all areas of Pakistan
Since Mullah Omar of the Taliban set up his headquarters in Kabul, Waziristan became the gateway through which young students of madrassas could travel to Afghanistan to join the Taliban and become militants. Since that fruitful year of 1996, events have escalated into countless wars, conflicts, drones, bombs and bloodshed; a large number of Pashtuns have been killed, gone missing, forced into barely liveable displacement camps and subjected to ethnic and racial discrimination. Those Pashtuns, some of whom have seen war and conflict and displacement their whole lives, are not taking the discrimination lying down, not anymore.
It was the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsood which proved to be the match which ignited the feelings of passion, brotherhood and the demand for justice, which are channelling into one of Pakistan’s first human rights movement, going beyond boundaries of religion and gender, in its true essence. What looked like just another one of countless baseless murders of an ethnic minority, which would be pushed under the rug, proved to be the tipping point for the expression of legitimate grievances and injustices committed, and then ignored, against the Pashtun community.
It is a tragedy that this legitimate movement for rights is being looked by the establishment and the media, dominated by Punjabis, as a passing moment. Leaders of a Pakhtun protest demanding equal rights for the ethnic community were booked in Balochistan’s Killa Saifullah on Tuesday, under S 153 (Promoting enmity between different groups). Press coverage of the Pashtun march on Islamabad has also been minimal and insufficient, failing to capture the significance and context of Pashtun grievances.
This indigenous movement, which is rejecting religious and political viewpoints to talk about a collective sense of injustice, needs to be addressed. It is more legitimate than any other dharna of the past, with no political motivations. The coverage on mainstream media is missing, the attention paid to it is inadequate and the accusations of “treason” and “anti-Pakistani statements” from establishment proxies are deplorable.