The momentous insurrection of the Pashtun Dharna that led the quiet wake of Naqeebullahs murder is a watershed moment in the history of state oppression of the Pashtun community. One that has forced cognisance upon the state apparatus itself, that has designed and perpetuated a history of ethnic violence, and the public alike, which imbibes and regurgitates it in their everyday lives.

It is this very cognizance that has instigated a frantic scrabbling on the part of instigators to contain the torrential turn of an oppressed nationality that has risen to seek justice. Where the sit-in participants called attention to missing persons from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the mistreatment of the locals, their collective voices and grief was a tangible entity that refused to be stifled. Subsequently, elements of oppression, in a panic-stricken frenzy to stem this cascade, claimed another victim in Aftab Mehsud, a young man who played an active role in the sit-in who was found shot dead on Saturday.

The fact remains that Naqeebullahs murder was more than just an extrajudicial killing by a trigger-happy police outfit. Naqeebullahs’ ‘staged encounter’ conveniently played into the highly embellished and intrinsically crafted farce, where ethnic violence is routinely promulgated under the hollow trope of ‘terrorism’. While investigative reports have concluded that the Jan 13 encounter was prima facie a coordinated fake/staged shoot-out in the presence of high ranking police officers, where the criminal records were fraudulent and the weapons found were foisted upon the accused, what remains to be seen is how the state castigates all those involved in this convoluted violation and misuse of the law.

Protection should be provided to the witnesses of the case under the Sindh Witness Protection Act, 2013 and investigation of the case needs to be carried out by departments independent of the compounded matrix of subversion. This moment in annals of Pashtun rights, and our politico-judicial history as a country marks a recognition of the need for acute accountability with regards to racial profiling across the board. The state needs to stop wrongly conflating terrorism with Pashtun culture and propagating divisive ideologies based on racial profiling. Politicians need to stop touting religious and sectarian ideologies in a bid to curry favour with the masses. In a country where law-enforcement becomes a fascist enterprise seeking to brutalise innocent young lives to suit dominant political narratives, where witnesses are coerced and threatened into silence under fear of police brutality, where xenophobia, ethnic and sectarian violence is mainstreamed into our universities, schools and federal policies, such watershed moments warrant our solidarity and support to turn the tide in the favor of those who seek to tell their truth.