The peculiar history of Pakistan tells us that whenever Lahore welcomes any aggrieved person or group, their demands get widespread attention. Maybe now the demands of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) will find more traction. The rally held at Mochi Gate Lahore, attended by many rights activists, groups, journalists and students, led by Manzoor Pashteen and Ali Wazir was a successful show of strength for the movement outside its native region, and passed without any untoward incident. According to a conservative figure, at least 5000 people welcomed Manzoor and his supporters.
The Mochi Gate rally’s most pressing demand was the release of missing persons, and the audience was in complete agreement to the demands of the speakers. This concern coalesced in the form of the concrete plea to establish a “truth and reconciliation commission to probe the extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances in the country”.
However, instead of confrontation or protest, the tenor of the rally was of continued cooperation with the state. Manzoor Pashteen admitted that the state has been gracious enough to work on many of the movement’s just demands; Rao Anwar has been arrested and is being tried – according to the group’s primary demand – and as per DG ISPR, landmines in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) are in the process of being cleared. The issue of missing persons is the only major sticking point at the moment.
The state has shown great capacity for engaging with these groups and finding constructive ways to move forwards. Recently – in a Jirga attended by Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, General Officer Commanding of North Waziristan Azhar Hayat Khan, the additional chief secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, NWA political agent Mohammad Ayaz and president of the Anjuman Tajiran Pakistan Ajmal Baloch – the issue of financial compensation for shops damaged during the Zarb-e-Azb and related military operations was discussed. And according to sources two committees with five members each — one for Miramshah and the other for Mir Ali — were set up to determine financial losses and damage suffered by the traders; which is in line with the promises made by the military; that it would support complete rehabilitation of the affected areas.
These events show how both parties to this equation can work together to solve the problems suffered by the people of the region due to the prolonged fighting. More engagement is the solution.