Tuesday, May 15, 2018

PTM: The Lowdown on Manzur Pashteen

Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has held rallies across Pakistan in support of Pashtun rights. The movement was born in response to the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young Pashtun falsely accused of being a terrorist by a rogue senior police officer in Karachi.  PTM has received very little coverage in Pakistan's mainstream media but the extensive foreign media reporting on its leader Manzoor Pashteen has been effusive.  Inside Pakistan, the PTM movement has been mainly a social media phenomenon. Foreign media appear to have relied on PTM's social media posts for their coverage. Pashteen's tweets have come under criticism for disseminating misleading images and disinformation about the actions of Pakistani military in FATA.

PTM Leader Manzoor Pashteen
Who is Manzoor Pashteen?

Manzoor Pashteen is from South Waziristan in Pakistan's federally administered tribal areas (FATA). Born in 1992, he saw a lot of violence and suffering in his home as the battle raged between the Taliban, particularly the TTP,  and the Pakistan's security forces in the last decade.

Pashteen has been variously hailed as "Pashtun Che" and "Messiah" by his supporters while those opposing him have been denigrated as "pygmies". Among others, Pahteen's movement has received support from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who is not on good terms with Pakistan. Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has described the PTM movement as "engineered" without explicitly naming it.

Social Media Disinformation Campaign: 

While pressing for redress of their genuine grievances, the PTM leaders their and supporters have attacked Pakistani soldiers as "terrorists in uniforms".  Manzoor Pashteen has sent out misleading tweets and disinformation about Pakistan Army.

One of Pashteen's tweets had an image of destroyed homes that he falsely claimed was the result of Pakistan Army action in FATA. It was in fact an image from a 2011 Radio Free Europe story titled "Taliban Burn Villages in Northwestern Pakistan".

Pashteen tweeted out an old 1960s picture from Woodstock , New York.  It showed American hippies sleeping in tents. He wrongly labeled them as internally displaced Pashtuns (IDPs) from FATA, Pakistan.

Another Pashteen tweet included the picture of an Afghan child who was killed by the Taliban in Helmand province. Pashteen incorrectly labeled him a Pakistani Pashtun child in FATA and falsely claimed the child was killed by the Pakistan Army.

Pashteen's account was suspended by Twitter for engaging in disinformation. It was only restored after he and his supporters made promises to correct their behavior and pleaded for restoration.

Violence in FATA:

 Pashteen has seen hundreds of fellow Pashtuns in FATA killed and injured. Tens of thousands have been displaced amid multiple military operations to clear out the Taliban militants from the region.

Terror Death Toll in Pakistan. Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal


There has been a marked decrease in violence as a result of Pakistan Army Operations Zarb e Azb and Radd ul Fasad to drive out militants from North and South Waziristan. Death toll from terrorism across Pakistan has declined from the peak of 11,704 in 2011 to 1,260 in 2017, according to South Asia Terrorism Portal.  Over 22,000 civilians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks since the year 2001. In the same period,  nearly 7,000 Pakistani security personnel have been killed in fighting the terrorists to bring peace to the country.

Pashtun Perpetrators and Victims:

It is true that many victims of terrorist violence in Pakistan have been Pashtuns. But data from South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) shows that Pashtuns alone have not suffered from terrorism.

All of Pakistan's ethnic groups and regions have paid a price. And most of the perpetrators of such violence have been Pashtuns. Pakistan Army has also used violence to stop this violence but it was inevitable to bring an end to an armed conflict that could not be peacefully resolved in spite of Pakistan's best efforts. Nearly 7000 Pakistani soldiers and policemen have died fighting the terrorists.

PTM Under Suspicion:

PTM"s detractors say the movement has been hijacked by those wishing to harm Pakistan. They point to the fact it went from pressing for redress of genuine Pashtun grievances to accusing the Pakistani soldiers of being "terrorists in uniform". In an interview with CNN, Pashteen asked "Who they are harboring in their cantonment zones, if not the Taliban?"

Pashteen's critics offer Pashteen's misleading tweets as evidence that he is being manipulated. This is not a surprise when seen in the context of the ongoing debate in the West about the use by hostile nations of the social media to promote divisions along ethnic, racial, sectarian lines.

American and British intelligence agencies claim that Russian intelligence has used social media to promote divisions and manipulate public opinion in the West.  Like the US and the UK, Pakistan also has ethnic, sectarian and regional fault-lines that make it vulnerable to similar social media manipulation.  It is very likely that intelligence agencies of countries hostile to Pakistan are exploiting these divisions for their own ends. Various pronouncements by India's current and former intelligence and security officials reinforce this suspicion.

Solution:

It is important that the Pakistani politicians and the military as well as the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders focus on finding a way forward rather than dissipate their energies in the ongoing blame game.

One of PTM's demands is the removal of Pakistan Army check posts in FATA. Such a move will create a power vacuum that will almost certainly be filled  by the militants, resulting in the loss of hard-fought gains. What is needed is that the Pakistan military be replaced by an effective civilian administration and a police force in a well-planned transition. This requires that FATA be mainstreamed by either creating a new province or by merging it with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.  It means ending the colonial-era Frontier Crime Regulation (FCR) that relies on collective punishment. It means extending Pakistan's constitution and laws to FATA region. There has been a lot of talk about it but little action so far.  Progress on it seems unlikely until after the coming general elections in the country.

Summary:

Pakistan Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) led by Manzoor Pashteen started with demands seeking redress of their genuine grievances. But it has come under scrutiny because of its use of misleading tweets and their rebroadcast by foreign media to spread disinformation. It is especially relevant given the current debate in the West about the use of social media by foreign hostile nations to promote divisions in societies. What is needed is for FATA to be mainstreamed with a civilian administration replacing the Pakistan Army in the region.

Here's a debate on PTM and Manzoor Pashteen:

https://youtu.be/TSePPq_4ILE




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?

Planted Stories in Media

Indian BJP Troll Farm

Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway

What Can Pakistan Learn From Sri Lanka?

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


11 comments:

Samlee said...

Sir As A Pashtun Let Me Tell You With Full Confidence and Authority That Most Pashtuns Consider Pashteen A Fraud

BK said...

As a Pashtun, I 100% disagree with the post above. Mr. Pashteen represents the grievances of the Pashtun people who borne the brunt of the Army's "War on Terror". In Pashto we have a saying. You don't cut down the whole tree if a peach has spoiled. What the Army did was to kill a 100 innocent people for one terrorist.

Be careful, please.

Riaz Haq said...

BK: "What the Army did was to kill a 100 innocent people for one terrorist."

What's the basis of your claim?

22,260 civilians and 33,963 terrorists have been killed in Pakistan since Year 2000, according South Asia Terrorism Portal based in New Delhi, India. The ratio of civilians to terrorists is about 2:3.

http://www.satp.org/Datasheets.aspx?countries=pakistan

Rizwan said...

"22,260 civilians and 33,963 terrorists have been killed in Pakistan since Year 2000---". How many of these civilians were killed by terrorists and how many by the army? I would say the vast majority were killed by terrorists.

BK said...

Riaz Sir,

Sorry for the late response. There is so much I can discuss with you and I hope you can visit one of the ghost type villages in the area like I have. Many Pashtuns will tell you that if one or two terrorists were hiding in a village of 500 the Army would come in blindly go and kill 300-400 people. And here is the problem the 300-400 will be registered as terrorists. Why? Please go and check records for yourself. The police still harass all the villagers no matter what.

The number of terrorists killed includes thousands of civilians - entire families and clans have disappeared - that is the problem.

Riaz Haq said...

BK: "Many Pashtuns will tell you that if one or two terrorists were hiding in a village of 500 the Army would come in blindly go and kill 300-400 people"

It is hard to get reliable data from conflict zones but such large scale killings would be hard to conceal.

None of the data tracking/reporting supports the kind of killings you are claiming.

SATP.org is based in New Delhi, India and staffed by Indians who would certainly not conceal such massacres by Pakistani security forces.

http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/pakistan/database/index.html

Nor would other international groups like acleddata.com

https://www.acleddata.com/2017/02/07/regional-violence-in-pakistan/

Z Basha Jr said...

Thanks Riaz Sb for bringing facts from internet..Like you said especially hard to get in conflict zones.. But we must also pay attention to how Indians are getting data which is not available to Pakistanis..

Samlee said...

It Is Comic This Pashtun Claimant BK Is Making Such Large Claims Of "500 People Being Killed" In Army Operation But Fails To Provide A Single Evidence Reference or Link To Back Him Up

Riaz Haq said...

Afghan diplomats in Pakistan targeted by 'state-backed hackers'
By Secunder Kermani
BBC News, Islamabad

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-44250769

Afghan diplomats in Pakistan have been warned they are believed to be victims of "government-backed" digital attacks trying to steal their email passwords.

Afghan embassy sources told the BBC two staff members and a generic account received alerts from Google this month.

Last week Amnesty International detailed attempts to install malware on computers and phones of activists critical of Pakistan's military.

The army did not comment on allegations intelligence services were to blame.

After the Google warning alerts were sent out, another Afghan diplomat's email account was hacked and made to send out emails, without his knowledge, containing suspicious attachments.

The emails purported to contain photographs of rallies by protesters known as the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM). In fact the attachments appear to contain malicious files, although it was not possible to download and examine them.

The PTM movement has accused the Pakistani military of committing human rights abuses in the country's fight against terrorism. Protests have been non-violent but controversial due to their unusually direct criticism of the Pakistani intelligence services.

Why were the emails sent?
Supporters of the Pakistani military have accused the PTM of working on behalf of the Afghan intelligence services - the two countries regularly accuse each other of working to undermine the other's security.

A source in the Afghan embassy told the BBC he was concerned that recipients of the emails sent out from the diplomat's account could believe the Afghan embassy was linked to the movement.

The email was sent to addresses publicly linked to a number of political figures in Pakistan. They include a former information minister, and a former law minister.

It was also sent to a former senator from a Pashtun nationalist party, Bushra Gohar. Ms Gohar told the BBC: "I know for a fact that all my accounts are being observed… this is condemnable."

She added: "Parliament needs to form a committee and look into what is going on."

Have there been other cyber-attacks?
An employee of the Afghan embassy and a former member of staff were also both targeted by a fake Facebook profile linked to cyber-attacks.

A report by Amnesty International released last week revealed that the profile, "Sana Halimi", had repeatedly sent malware to a human rights activist in Lahore.

One of the Afghan embassy staff members befriended by "Sana Halimi" told colleagues "she" had engaged him in conversation pretending to be an Afghan woman from the city of Herat.

The Facebook account also befriended a number of other human rights activists. One told the BBC it had messaged him in a "flirtatious" manner.

In a report released last week, mobile security company Lookout documented "Sana Halimi" sending out malware via Facebook Messenger on at least two occasions.

The incidents form part of an investigation they carried out into the successful hacking of devices by a team they describe as "likely" being run by the Pakistani military. Their report examined around 30GB of stolen data, a significant part of which appeared to have been taken from Afghan officials.

Who was 'Sana Halimi'?
The BBC has learnt that the pictures of "Sana Halimi" were in fact stolen from the social media accounts of a 21-year-old chef in Lahore called Salwa Gardezi with no connection to Afghanistan.

Ms Gardezi is a close relative of a prominent political commentator, Ayesha Siddiqa, known for her work critiquing the Pakistani military. It is not clear if her photographs were used because of this connection.

Riaz Haq said...

https://www.dawn.com/news/1411983


According to the DG ISPR, the issues put forward by Pashteen and Dawar included the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, the missing persons issue, the dumping of un-exploded ordnance and the presence of security check posts in Fata.

He added that these were all practical issues and the PTM leaders were promised that they would be looked into.

Dawar later sent him a text thanking him for the facilitation, Maj Gen Ghafoor claimed. He said he failed to understand how the PTM then moved forward with its protest after receiving assurances that the issues would be settled.

"After that, how did [Manzoor Pashteen's] name change from Manzoor Ahmed Mehsud to Manzoor Pashteen? How did this campaign start on social media, and how were 5,000 social media accounts set up in a single day in Afghanistan?" Maj Gen Ghafoor asked.

"How did one cap made abroad started being imported into Pakistan? And how did groups of 10 individuals started raising anti-Pakistan slogans? How did articles start appearing in newspapers and how did some foreign media start telecasting their protests live on Facebook and Twitter?" he asked rhetorically.

He said it was time that the PTM conducted some introspection.

"When those who are the enemies of Pakistan start praising you ... then one needs to look inside and see if what they are doing is something favourable for the country or not," he said.

The DG ISPR said they were "strictly directed" by Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa not to use force against any PTM gathering.

He recalled reports that PTM leaders had claimed they were detained before their gathering in Lahore. According to Maj Gen Ghafoor, the army chief had, upon receipt of these reports, called the authorities in Lahore and asked them to back down, desist from arresting them, and let the PTM activists speak.

"They are Pakistanis too. If they have some grievances, till such time [that] they are genuine and within the four corners of the Constitution, then we are the state and we have to deal with them," he quoted Gen Bajwa as saying.

"If the state refuses to listen to its people, then who will?" he said.

Ghafoor warned the movement, however, that "inimical forces" were exploiting PTM activists and that they were "letting themselves be exploited".

He later pointed out that data from the missing persons commission shows the number of missing persons has deceased from 7,000 to 3,000. He also said the removal of unexploded ordnance, one of the PTM's demands, was a "colossal job" which is being worked on.

Giving a rundown of last evening's incident in South Waziristan's town of Wana, the DG ISPR said PTM leader Ali Wazir had been raising anti-army and anti-state slogans before the locals for the past few days. He said the area's Aman [Peace] Committee forbade him from doing so, instead inviting him for talks with a jirga.

As the Aman Committee was waiting for PTM leaders, the movement's supports arrived there and a scuffle followed, leading to an exchange of fire between both sides.

"Ask Ali Wazir, did the FC and army not ask them to stop fighting each other?" Maj Gen Ghafoor said. He added that the casualties of the episode were evacuated through army helicopters, demonstrating the army's 'role' in the matter.

"And what is the propaganda on social media? An 8-year-old's picture is being circulated saying that she was killed last night in Wana. There has been no casualty of a child in Wana," Maj Gen Ghafoor said, rubbishing the claim.

"When you spread such propaganda, you force the state to use force against you. We do not want that."

"If you feel that insulting and bashing the Pakistan Army and making false accusations against it [makes a difference], it makes no difference to us," Ghafoor said. "We know the people are with us. Love for the army has only grown over the years for us."

Riaz Haq said...

https://www.geo.tv/latest/197971-dg-ispr-briefs-media-on-ceasefire-violations-by-india



Social media being used against Pakistan, institutions: DG ISPR



Speaking of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for the first time, the DG ISPR referred to several questions pertaining to the sudden emergence of the movement.

"How did Manzoor Ahmed Masood was renamed as Manzoor Pashteen; how did this campaign start on social media; how were 5000 social media accounts made in Afghanistan in a single day; how was a 'topi' (cap) started manufacturing outside the country and coming into Pakistan; how did small group of individuals started staging anti-Pakistan protests outside the country," he questioned.

In this regard, the DG ISPR also noted publishing of articles by foreign newspapers and live telecast of Pashteen by foreign media outlets on Facebook and Twitter.

Major General Ghafoor told the media that he met with Manzoor Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar, who shared their concerns. "They came to our office, we had a discussion for an hour or two about Naqeeb Mehsud, missing persons, unexploded ordnance [in tribal areas] and check-posts issues."

He said that he separated Mohsin Dawar and Manzoor Pashteen from other people and took them to his office, adding, "Then I got them to speak to all GOCs and IG FC, got them time, [told them] all your issues should be resolved, go meet the GOCs.

"They returned and also held a meeting, and I received a text from Mohsin Dawar thanking me for facilitating and getting their issues resolved," the DG ISPR said.

He, however, said that "those who are enemies of Pakistan and still want to see the country unstable, if they join you and start praising you then one needs to look inward what is this happening."

Major General Ghafoor further said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa gave strict instructions not to deal with PTM gatherings through force anywhere.

No action has been taken against them so far, the army spokesperson pointed out, adding that "we have many proofs of how they are being used".

On the incident in Wana, South Waziristan, the DG ISPR said the Mehsud tribe has fought against terrorism for years. The [tribe] then fought among itself, and the casualties were rescued by Army helicopters.

A propaganda was instigated that a girl was killed by Army firing, he said.

"Pakistan has achieved peace by rendering sacrifices in the past 20 years. What we achieved, nobody was able to achieve. Now, it's time to be united and progress."

"We are not [affected] by false slogans on social media. The nation's love for the army has only increased in the [past] 10 years."

“We cannot respond to [everyone]. We are focused on our work,” he added.

The army spokesperson further said that a lot of accusations were made but time proved all the accusations to be false.

“No army [in the world] has been as successful as Pakistan army in the war against terrorism,” he said.