Foreign Connections of the PTM: Another Bangladesh in the Making
External powers which have been supporting the Baloch Sub-Nationalists (BSNs) are also behind the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) as part of their unfinished agenda against Pakistan and its armed forces leave no stone unturned in misguiding the people of the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) by manipulating one after another issue. But, it is regrettable that some internal entities of Pakistan, which are also assisting some foreign powers, are exploiting various issues so as to fulfill the external agenda of the enemies of Pakistan.
In this regard, Al-Jazeera has published the opinion article of Taha Siddiqui on its website titled “The PTM in Pakistan: Another Bangladesh in the Making?” dated 12 January 2019. Salient of the article are-Pashtuns have been bearing the brunt of the war on terror for nearly two decades-Pakistani military started carrying out operations to clear the area from terrorists. However, military operations in the area increasingly victimized innocent civilians-Pashteen and his supporters raised questions about the reasons behind army’s failure to drive out militancy and asked whether Pakistani authorities really wanted to eradicate such groups. One slogan that they commonly used was “یہ جو دہشتگردی ہے اس کے پیچھے وردی ہے”-Rather than addressing the grievances expressed by this growing movement, the Pakistani government chose to embark on a crackdown-Military media spokesperson accused PTM [Pashtun Tahafuz Movement] of working on an anti-Pakistan agenda, a tactic often used by the Pakistani military to discredit its critics-Similar rights movement launched by East Pakistani residents eventually culminated into a movement for independence from Pakistan, and led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. It seems that Pakistan’s ruling elites have not learned much from history and seem to be repeating the same mistakes that led to much pain.
However, Taha Siddiqui’s article is quite opposite to the ground realities and facts. He has become a constant voice for PTM at international forum as part of the propaganda campaign against Pakistan’s military and government. He represents anti-Pakistan likeminded group i.e. SAATH Forum, and definitely well-connected by virtue of his previous record in journalism. By following the ant-Pakistan designs, Taha Siddiqui’s activities are endangering the image of Pakistan. He is among those voices that misrepresent Pakistan in international community. His highly critical commentaries are growing in numbers and various forums are providing space to his opinion articles.
It is notable that Pakistan’s former President Mamnoon Hussain on May 31, 2018 gave his assent to the 31st Constitution Amendment Bill, paving the way for the much-delayed merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. With a clear majority, the bill was already approved by both houses of Parliament as well as the KP Assembly. After signing the act, President Mamnoon Hussain felicitated the people of FATA and said that tribal people would now enjoy the same constitutional rights as being enjoyed by other citizens of the country.
While, amalgamation of FATA/PATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will result into multiple benefits of the people by overcoming their multi-faceted problems.
Notably, when leader of the PTM, Manzoor Pashteen hold a public rally in Lahore on April 23 and in Swat on April 29, last year, Balochistan Assembly members Arfa Siddique, Obaidullah Jan Babar and Senator Usman Khan Kakar who belonged to Mahmood Khan Achakzai-led Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) also attended the rallies.
In the recent past, Mahmood Khan Achakzai and his party and PkMAP have opposed the 31st Constitution Amendment Bill in the Parliament, which paved the way for the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.
Nevertheless, the merger of FATA/PATA with the KP was welcomed by the tribal people—the tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly and the National Assembly. Interestingly, there was insignificant opposition to the merger on the part of Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam (JUI-F) and PkMAP.
The proceedings for the merger have witnessed intense activities in shape of meetings, debate etc. High-powered National Implementation Committee (NIC) on FATA Reforms had earlier endorsed the merger of tribal regions with northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in a meeting attended by the prime minister, chief of army staff, and others, including chief minister of the KP and Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on FATA Reforms Sartaj Aziz. Later, in May 2018, National Security Committee (NSC) in its 23rd meeting discussed and endorsed the merger of FATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), while noting the regional and global security situation.
The credit for making the merger a reality has been attributed to Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who continued to push the political leadership for requisite activism on the issue. The role of opposition parties also remained positive and appreciable.
The merger of FATA/PATA with the KP province has been a long awaited move, as there has been too much suffering in the tribal areas. FATA was administered through Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), and political agent acted as a justice along with other executive tasks. FCR was a set of laws under which joint territorial duties and penalties were imposed. Since America’s attack on Afghanistan, FATA arose as a zone of trouble and proxy warfare. It also became security risk for the region and put Pakistan into many hardships.
As a matter of fact, FCR which was officially enacted in 1901 has its origins in laws which were enacted by the British colonialists in the Pashtun-inhabited tribal areas in the Northwest of British India. They were specifically devised to counter the opposition of the Pashtuns to British rule. The main objective of the FCR was to protect the interests of the British Empire. More than a century later, this law continues to be applied to FATA residents by the Government of Pakistan. Not only did the FCR deprive the people of FATA their fundamental rights, but also had taken away their basic legal rights like ‘Appeal, Wakeel and Daleel’.
So, it is positive dimension for the tribal people, as they have got rid of colonialism which continued after the partition of the Sub-continent. The tribal Sardars (Lords) who continued British practices were in favour of the division of FATA/PATA and KP. Now, this merger is likely to upset sub-nationalist tendencies, being exploited by Pakistan’s foreign enemies and some internal entities which were generating unrest in the tribal area on pretext of denial of basic rights.
Rapid mainstreaming with the end-goal of a relatively quick integration with KP is the right way ahead for FATA. After this merger, progress for these areas is only beginning. While the amendment abolishes the cruel “Frontier Crimes Resolution”, a makeshift replacement that is similar in nature will be in place for some time.
As FATA will be given a special fund of Rs1000 billion and receive Rs124 billion from the National Finance Commission according to the details of the bill–but more money may be required to rebuild the areas which have been devastated by years of war.
Exempting residents of the areas from taxation for five years is an important start, but more must be done to treat them as equal citizens in a country. FATA deserves all the constitutional protections.
At present, FATA is most deprived and least-developed area in Pakistan. With lowest per capita income in the country, two third of its population simply lives below the poverty line. The literacy rate is as low as only 17% among males and only 3% among females. And, almost half population has no access to clean drinking water. So far, no substantial endeavor has been made to promote the socio-economic wellbeing of the people in FATA. The much-advertised plan of the US to establish certain Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ’s), as an instrument to contain extremism in FATA, has never materialized in reality. The standard of living in the provincial tribal areas in Pakistan is by no means better than that of FATA people.
It is worth-mentioning that since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, Pakistan has become center of the intelligence agencies such as American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which are in collusion with Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) to obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China and Pakistan, including Iran.
Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these secret agencies support the militants of Islamic State group (Also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) and Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the double game of the US-led countries. Besides, these terrorist groups are destabilizing Tibetan regions of China and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan through subversive activities.
After signing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has become special target of these foreign agencies which have not only restarted terror attacks in Pakistan, especially in Baluchistan through ISIS and TTP etc., but have also kept alive anti-Pakistan propaganda campaign, including protests-demonstrations so as to create a rift among the ethnic groups of Pakistan in order to achieve their collective secret aims against the country.
And CIA and RAW which are in collaboration with and NDS are clandestinely assisting the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) to manipulate the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), as these external entities are behind this Movement.
In this connection, in April 8, 2018, the protesters of the social movement of PTM, led by the young activist Manzoor Pashteen gathered in Pakistan’s capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawar for a mass demonstration to demand the protection of the rights of Pashtuns. Similar protest-demonstrations in solidarity with the PTM were held on the same day in Australia, Sweden, Germany, London, Washington and Afghanistan and along the Pak-Afghan border, which proved the foreign connections of the PTM movement.
The PTM first staged a 10-day sit-in protest in Islamabad in February, last year in response to the killing of 27-year old Naqeebullah Mehsud—what the Pakistani police pointed out as a raid on a terrorist hideout in eastern Karachi. The PTM halted its first Islamabad sit-in protest after the government provided written assurances that it would address the PTM complaints.
In fact, PTM had risen to importance, after it held protests for the arrest of Karachi’s SSP Rao Anwar for the extrajudicial killing of Naqueebullah Mehsud. The incident was fully manipulated by the organization.
Speaking in the tone of external propagandists against Pakistan, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement is demanding an end to human rights violations by authorities in the country’s tribal regions, removal of military checkpoints in the tribal areas and to form a judicial commission to investigate alleged extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of the Pashtuns in Pashtun-dominated regions of Pakistan.
On the other side, Pakistan’s government rejected false allegations that security forces or its intelligence agencies are responsible for enforced disappearances. Authorities said that military checkpoints are necessary in the tribal areas so as to combat extremist militants, including Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters.
As regards the case of missing persons of the Pashtuns, they were killed in various terror attacks, arranged by the militant groups like ISIS, TTP and their linked groups, while many Pustuns, without informing their families, also went to Afghanistan to wage Jihad against the occupying forces of NATO. They are, in fact, disappeared persons.
In reaction to the protest-demonstrations of the PTM, on April 2, 2018, People in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK) and FATA took out rallies against PTM. The rallies were organised by a newly formed Pakistan Zindabad Movement, across the FATA and KPK. Anti-PTM rallies were held in Mohmand, Khyber, Kurram agencies, including the KPK towns of Kohat, Shabqadar and Charsadda.
In their speeches, people from different walks of lives praised the sacrifices rendered by the Pak Army and the other security forces in maintaining peace in FATA and the KPK. Protestors termed PTM anti-state and anti-forces.
They also called PTM an agent of RAW and NDS with a mission to defame the Pakistani security forces. The organizers of the rallies warned that if PTM did not let up their foreign agenda the Pashtun people will come after them.
Regarding the separation of East Pakistan, Taha Siddiqui must know that Indian RAW had a long history of sinister activities in the East Pakistan, backing secular areas of Hindu minority who had played an important role in motivating Bengali Muslims against West Pakistan. RAW’s well-paid agents had activated themselves in East Pakistan in the 1960’s so as to dismember Pakistan. For this aim, it took the responsibility of funding Sheikh Mujibur Rahmans’ general elections in 1970 and the members of his party, Awami League. It colluded with the pro-Indian persons and had paid full attention in training and arming the Mukti Bahnis (Terrorists). Playing with the bloodshed of Muslims, RAW succeeded in initiating a civil war in East Pakistan. However, huge quantity of arms started entering East Pakistan. Meanwhile, India welcomed the refugees from East Pakistan, providing them with every facility to provocate them against West Pakistan.
Majib was already in connivance with India for separation of East Pakistan. In this connection, Asoka Raina in his book, ‘Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service’, discloses, “Indian intelligence agencies were involved in erstwhile East Pakistan…its operatives were in touch with Sheikh Mujib as the possible ‘Father’ of a new nation-Bangladesh, who went to Agartala in 1965. The famous Agartala case was unearthed in 1967. In fact, the main purpose of raising RAW in 1968 was to organise covert operations in Bangladesh. Indian army officers and RAW officials used Bengali refugees to set up Mukti Bahini. Using this outfit as a cover, Indian military sneaked deep into East Pakistan…the story of Mukti Bahini and RAW’s role in its creation and training is now well-known.”
In this regard, while addressing a ceremony during his Bangladesh tour, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly stated on June 7, 2015 that Indian forces helped Mukti Bahini to turn East Pakistan into Bangladesh. He elaborated that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had played an active role in separating Bangladesh from Pakistan, and he had also come to Delhi in 1971 to participate in the Satyagraha Movement, launched by Jana Sangh as a volunteer to garner support for the Mukti Bahini members.
Returning to our earlier discussion, Taha Siddiqui has ignored the facts and ground realities in his article by amalgamating the PTM with another Bangladesh.