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.


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.


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:


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


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.


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.


Nor would other international groups like acleddata.com


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


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...


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...

Federally Administered Tribal Area (Fata) Development Authority has completed seven small dams and 13 small irrigation schemes since 2004 to till date.


Official source told APP here today that as a result of completion of these projects a huge land has been brought under cultivation.

As some of these completed projects are multi-purpose, therefore, a huge population is also benefited by using clean drinking water.

Moreover, the power generation projects have been initiated by Fata Development Authority which will play key role in reducing the energy crisis after their completion.

So far, Fata DA has completed these projects including Dargai Pal Small Dam, SWA, Dandy Small Dam, NWA, Moto Shah Small Dam Mohmand Agency, Sheen Kach Small Dam FR Tank, Zao Small Dam, Khyber Agency,Kand Small Dam, NWA, Ping Small Dam, FR Bannu, Sheen Warsak Irrigation Scheme, SWA, Musa Nikka Irrigation Scheme, SWA, Zeera Letta Irrigation Scheme, SWA, Sadda Weir Lower Kurram, Agency, Walai Killi Bazar Zakha Khel Irrigation Scheme, Khyber Agency,Pir Qayum Drinking Water, Kurram Agency, Makha Zai Irrigation Scheme, Kurram Agency, Zarwam Irrigation Scheme, FR Bannu, Jallandar Irrigation Scheme, Kurram Agency, Shahbaz Sum Irrigation Scheme, Kurram Agency, Shawa Irrigation Scheme, NWA, Maula Khan Sarai Irrigation Scheme, SWA.

Riaz Haq said...

The Military Says Pashtuns Are Traitors. We Just Want Our Rights.
Pakistan’s powerful military is trying to crush a nonviolent movement for civil rights.

By Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen


The government ignored us when these militants terrorized and murdered the residents. Pakistan’s military operations against the militants brought further misery: civilian killings, displacements, enforced disappearances, humiliation and the destruction of our livelihoods and way of life. No journalists were allowed into the tribal areas while the military operations were going on.

Pashtuns who fled the region in hopes of rebuilding their lives in Pakistani cities were greeted with suspicion and hostility. We were stereotyped as terrorist sympathizers. I was studying to become a veterinarian, but the plight of my people forced me and several friends to become activists.

In January 2018 Naqeebullah Mehsud, an aspiring model and businessman from Waziristan who was working in Karachi was killed by a police team led by a notorious officer named Rao Anwar. Mr. Anwar, who is accused of more than 400 extrajudicial murders, was granted bail and roams free.

Along with 20 friends, I set out on a protest march from Dera Ismail Khan to Islamabad, the capital. Word spread, and by the time we reached Islamabad, several thousand people had joined the protest. We called our movement the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or the Pashtun Protection Movement.

Ours is a peaceful movement that seeks security and political rights for Pashtuns. Apart from justice for Mr. Mehsud, we demand investigations into the killings of thousands of other Pashtuns by security forces and militants. We seek an end to enforced disappearances.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan says normalcy returns to former Taliban stronghold


Residents say they are happy about the return of peace.

"Taliban are gone and we pray that they don't come back," said Tahseen Ullah, a local resident who sells cooked rice in the Miran Shah bazaar.

Another shop owner, Khadim Hussain, complained that residents still face lengthy power outages during the day and at night.

"We demand that mobile phone service be provided to North Waziristan," resident Bakhat Zaman told Ghafoor.

To Zaman's surprise, Ghafoor said cell phone service will be available in March. "We will do whatever is possible to make your life easier," he said.

Ghafoor said the Pakistani Taliban used religion to spread violence and that now a young Pashtun leader, Manzoor Pashteen, was "misguiding and inciting youths against the army."

Ghafoor said the military is fencing the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan to ensure peace on both sides and that he hoped that Kabul will not allow Afghan soil to be used as a staging ground for attacks against Pakistan.

Afghanistan does not recognize the boundary, known as the Durand Line, which was drawn by British rulers in 1896. Ghafoor took the journalists to the main Ghulam Khan border where fencing has been completed. He said the military in 2017 planned to fence 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) of the border and about 800 kilometers (500 miles) has already been completed.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s Ali Wazir: The lone Marxist to win despite Taliban killing 16 of his family
FAROOQ TARIQ Updated: 28 July, 2018 5:55 pm IST


A rare Communist to survive and win, Wazir refused a seat from Imran Khan, who later didn’t put up a candidate against him.

Ali Wazir, a central committee member of The Struggle, has won a seat in the national parliament of Pakistan from NA-50 (Tribal Area–XI) with 23,530 votes and his closest rival from a religious parties alliance, MMA got 7,515. Thus winning the seat with a majority of 16,015.

Ali Wazir is one of the main leaders of the Pashtun Tahafaz Movement (PTM). This year, mass meetings were organised in major cities of Pakistan to raise voices for fair compensation to the victims of the “war on terror” and to demand the release of all ‘missing’ persons or to bring them to the courts if they are guilty.

Two other leaders of the PTM also contested for the national parliament and one of them, Muhsin Dawer also won the seat after a close competition. Mohsin Javed Dawer got 16,526 votes while Aurangzeb of Imran Khan’s PTI got 10,422. However, the MMA candidate Mufti Misbahudin got a close 15,363 votes.

These two PTM leaders contested from Waziristan, an area dominated by religious fanatics. However, a strong movement for civil rights of Pashtuns had cut across the influence of the fanatics and Pashtuns voted despite all the threats to them.

Two main leaders of the PTM present in parliament has given hope to many in Pakistan that at least there would be peoples voices in a parliament dominated by feudal lords, corrupt capitalists and stooges of the military and judicial establishment.

Who is Ali Wazir?
Ali Wazir is a very special person. His personal ordeal best illustrates what prompted his demands. Ali Wazir was pursuing a degree in law at the turn of the century when his hometown, Wana, the headquarters of the south Waziristan agency, became the epicenter of global terrorism after a host of Taliban-allied groups sought shelter in the communities.

No doubt the terrorists had some individual local facilitators, but ultimately it was the state that failed to prevent them from using the territory. When his father, the chief of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, and other local leaders complained of their presence, government officials ignored and silenced them. Instead, Islamabad spent years denying the presence of any Afghan, Arab, or Central Asian militants.

By 2003, the militants had established a foothold in south and north Waziristan tribal agencies and were attempting to build a local emirate. Ali Wazir’s elder brother Farooq Wazir, a local political activist and youth leader, became the first victim of a long campaign in which thousands of Pashtun tribal leaders, activists, politicians, and clerics were killed with near absolute impunity. Their only crime was to question or oppose the presence of dangerous terrorists in their homeland.

In 2005, Ali Wazir was in prison when his father, brothers, cousins, and an uncle were killed in a single ambush. He was behind the bars because of the draconian colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) law, that holds an entire tribe or region responsible for the crimes of an individual for any alleged crime committed in the territory.

Ali Wazir had committed no crime, never got a fair trial, and was not sentenced, yet he was prevented even from participating in the funerals for his family. In the subsequent years, six more members of his extended family were assassinated. The authorities have not even investigated these crimes let alone held anyone responsible.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s borderlands win a say in their own administration. Poll on July 20th, in which candidates will vie for one of 16 slots in #KPK provincial assembly, is a milestone for Pakistan’s neglected #tribal areas. #FATA https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/07/20/pakistans-borderlands-at-last-win-a-say-in-their-own-administration via @TheEconomist

Naheed afridi is something of a spectacle. She is canvassing for votes in Khyber district ahead of elections later this month. In a region where women are largely confined to their homes, her progress through villages near the Afghan border attracts curiosity and admiration, but also criticism. “I know I have challenged the ego of so-called strong men, and that’s why they tell me it’s against our religion and culture,” she says.

The poll on July 20th, in which candidates will vie for one of 16 slots in the provincial assembly, is a milestone for Pakistan’s neglected tribal borderlands: it is the first time they have been allowed to vote for local administrators. Since colonial times, the area has been run directly by the central government. But last year a constitutional amendment brought the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (fata), as the frontier zone used to be known, into the political and legal mainstream by merging it into the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In theory, that gives the region’s 5m inhabitants the same rights as other Pakistanis. But the ballot follows a military crackdown against the very movement for civil liberties which has recently been invigorating local politics.

Riaz Haq said...

Pashtun Nationalists wet dream: Pashtun Spring: Time to redraw the boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan
BY AHMAD SHAH KATAWAZAI, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — https://thehill.com/opinion/international/373150-pashtun-spring-time-to-redraw-the-boundary-between-pakistan-and

Forcefully imposed by British India in 1893 over Afghan objections, the Durand Line and FATA area has turned into a hub of terrorism, insurgency and drug trafficking. People in the area proudly and publicly bear arms, sell smuggled goods and make weapons. For criminals, arms dealers, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda, Haqqani network and ISIS, the area has become somewhat of a safe haven. The semi-autonomous tribal region is a place where foreign jihadists, many of whom have been there for more than a decade, can take advantage of the lawlessness and benign support that Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents have received from Pakistan. Such activity in this location presents potentially dangerous consequences for U.S., NATO and Afghan troops in the region.


Now is the time to change the status quo. This requires bold, confident decisions to address grievances of the people and redress mistakes of the past. In a May 2017 article published in The Pashtun Times, Ryszard Czarnecki, the former vice president of European Parliament, noted that “Pashtun-dominated tribal areas and portions of Pakistan that were forcefully taken away and merged into British India need to be restored to their earlier status as the sovereign territory of Afghanistan.” Indeed, it would be in the best interest of the United States, NATO and Afghanistan to redraw the Durand Line.

The Afghan government never has accepted the Durand Line as a true international border. The government and people of Afghanistan have consistently asked for the territory to be re-incorporated into Afghanistan. People who live along the Durand Line don’t consider it to be a border. They cross the border freely and, in many places, the line is unclear. Pashtun inhabitants along the line take pride in asserting their autonomy and proudly assert that their Pashtunwali traditions and tribal codes of conduct supersede the Pakistani laws and courts.


Ultimately, bringing stability to this region, and getting rid of Pakistani-backed insurgency, could become a model of freedom. Redrawing the Durand Line and merging the territory into Afghanistan would give the country access to international waters, providing a win from a logistical and economic perspective for the United States, NATO and Afghanistan. This would pave the way for a direct connection between Central Asia and the Middle East.

Riaz Haq said...

Ties between Al Zulfikar and Afghan President Babrak Karmal (KHAD/NDS) sour with Alamgir execution
Alamgir execution touches off a new wave of mutual recrimination between Damascus-based organisation and pro-Soviet regime of President Babrak Karmal.


In 1979, months after the hanging of Bhutto, Al Zulfikar was organised on the soil of Afghanistan with active patronage from the Afghan authorities, and both Murtaza and Shahnawaz were sheltered in Kabul.

Alamgir, accompanied by Naser Jamal and Arshad Butt, all Karachi boys belonging to Al Zulfikar, hijacked the PIA Boeing on March 2, 1981 from Karachi to Kabul in what has gone down as the longest air piracy in history - nine days - following which the Pakistani authorities had to accede to the hijackers' demand of releasing 52 political prisoners, many of whom were awaiting capital punishment.

Significantly, the hijacking was not condemned by the Afghan authorities at that time even though the prisoners were released by the Pakistani authorities at their own insistence at Damascus and not in Kabul. However, relations between Al Zulfikar and the Kabul Government were getting increasingly sour since 1981 when the Afghans, nettled by Al Zulfiqar's internal squabbles on Afghan soil, began interfering with them in a big way.

Finally, Murtaza and Shahnawaz left their haven in Afghanistan and headed for Libya. The two now operate from Tripoli, the Libyan capital, and Damascus, the capital of Syria, and command a well-trained militia of about 1,500 men. Even Alamgir did not enter Afghanistan for a long time since the hijacking.
He re-entered Afghanistan, according to the Radio Kabul announcement, on March 14 last year, apparently under orders from the Al Zulfikar leadership to liquidate Sinwari, a former Al Zulfikar activist who had adopted Afghan nationality and was suspected of being an Afghan plant in the organisation.

Diplomatic sources in New Delhi said Alamgir was sent from Libya and he might have travelled with false documents. He shot Sinwari dead on March 16 in front of a theatre in Kabul and was arrested by the security police in dramatic circumstances at Kabul Airport the same night, minutes before he was to fly out.

Informed diplomats in Kabul and New Delhi interpret the Afghan action as a determined move by the Afghan Government to strike an anti-terrorist posture and to restore normalcy in its relations with the outside world. The fallout of the 1981 hijack had been costly for the Afghans.

Group of Seven, the powerful member countries of the International Civil Aviation Organisation including the US, Canada, West Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Japan, decided to boycott Afghanistan, thus denying Ariana, the Afghan national carrier landing rights all along the lucrative route of Frankfurt, Paris and London.

The state-controlled Pakistani media prominently displayed the news of Alamgir's execution, thus hinting that Pakistan appreciated the posture of toughness adopted by the Afghans against the assorted followers of the Bhutto family. The Kabul Government also wants direct talks to immediately commence with Pakistan, a desire which can come true only if the latter recognises the Karmal regime.

In dealing strictly with Al Zulfikar, President Karmal has neutralised a major irritant in the way. But, along the Baluchistan front, there are still 5,000 Baluch guerillas garrisoned at the Afghan town of Kandahar, which Pakistan sees as the main stumbling block to normalisation of relations.

Riaz Haq said...

#Agriculture Park opens in Ex FATA in #KPK, #Pakistan to support agriculture business in #terrorism-free #Waziristan. It has a market complex, 5 warehouses, a bank, a hotel, a pine nut plant, hawker sheds, facilities for cold storage and other structures. https://menafn.com/1100456011/Pakistan-Agriculture-Park-Wana-becomes-functional

The (FATA) region contributes some 29 % (11, 372 tons) of Pakistan’s total vegetable production. It represents 73 % of the bitter gourd (karela) production, 40% of aubergines/eggplants (bengan or brinjal), 33% of tomatoes and 21% of okra or Lady Fingers. The region also contributes 71 % (70,043 tons) of Pakistan’s fruit production, in which the production of apple is 92%, almonds 82%, peaches 40 % and grapes at 37% of total production.

The newly constructed Agriculture park in Wana, the regional headquarters of South Waziristan, is now functional. The park will play an important role to boost agricultural business after peace returned to South Waziristan. The park has been envisaged as a socioeconomic uplift programme for the tribal districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. Aside from facilitating locals, it is also hoped that it would open links via a central corridor with Afghanistan and neighboring countries.

Alam Khan Mahsud, 25, is the owner of a vegetable shop in the local market in Wana. After a hectic day of work, he goes back to Tank to sleep – approximately 60km away, from where he brings fresh vegetables for his shop. The long process is not just tiring, Mahsud explains: it is also reflected in the price he must charge for the produce.

With this project functional, local shopkeepers hope to find a way to obtain fresh vegetables on a daily basis at their doorsteps. Mahsud hopes, “Opening such project will help us to bring fresh vegetables in less time – and most important, the produce will be provided to all on government rates.”

The park is one of its kind in the region. It contains a market complex, five warehouses, a bank, a hotel, a pine nut plant, hawker sheds, facilities for cold storage and other structures. The mega project will host 50 kinds of business in which 703 people will get direct employment while 1,038 people will be facilitated as labour from the local populace.

Mujeeb Ur Rehman, 45, is a contractor in the agriculture park at Wana. He elaborates upon the project and calls it the new phase of Waziristan’s development. “This is one of the best projects for the rehabilitation of locals as the area was subjected to war and terror for the last decade.” He emphasizes that it will help locals to stand on their own feet after intense operations against terrorism brought life to a standstill for years. “We have some of the best pine nuts and fruits here. This project will be a hub for agricultural business, which will benefit the country’s economy.” He recommends that the government launch such projects in other parts of the tribal districts too.


Gul Mar Khan, 35, is a truck driver. He brought in a truck loaded with pine nuts from Afghanistan. He considers the project a form of facilitation for truck drivers across the borders. He says: “Such a park for agriculture only a few hours way from Angoor Adda in the south along with Ghulam Khan terminal in north (Pak-Afghan border) is not only good for drivers coming across from Afghanistan but also a wave of relief and attraction for business of two neighboring countries Afghanistan and Pakistan. Previously, we had to take these pine nuts to the other parts of Pakistan which doubled the cost and added to the depreciation of the value of trucks due to wear and tear from a longer route.”

This year has been better thanks to the agriculture park. “Previously I took these pine nuts all the way to Peshawar and the profit was 3,000 to 3,500 US dollars per month. But this year the ratio increased to 6,500 US dollars of profit and it’s all due to the agriculture park in Wana,” Khan says.

Riaz Haq said...

Liberal Power: Liberals see #political authoritarianism in #Republicans clinging to power via the Senate’s rural bias, conservatives increasingly see #GOP as the only bulwark against the #cultural authoritarianism inherent in #tech & #media consolidation. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/17/opinion/where-liberal-power-lies.html?smid=tw-share

A striking thing about the current moment is that if you switch back and forth between reading conservatives and liberals, you see mirror-image anxieties about authoritarianism and totalitarianism, which each side believes are developing across the partisan divide.

Last Sunday I wrote in response to liberals who fear a postelection coup or a second-term slide toward autocracy, arguing (not for the first time) that Donald Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are overwhelmed by his incapacities, his distinct lack of will-to-power, and the countervailing power of liberalism in American institutions.

But then the ensuing week brought a wave of conservative anxieties about creeping authoritarianism. The source of the right’s agita was Twitter and Facebook, which decided to completely block a New York Post story featuring a cache of alleged Hunter Biden emails (with a very strange chain-of-custody back story) on the suspicion that they were the fruit of hacking, and in Twitter’s case to suspend some media accounts that shared the Post story even in critique.

“This is what totalitarianism looks like in our century,” the Post’s Op-Ed editor, Sohrab Ahmari, wrote in response: “Not men in darkened cells driving screws under the fingernails of dissidents, but Silicon Valley dweebs removing from vast swaths of the internet a damaging exposé on their preferred presidential candidate.”

Ahmari’s diagnosis is common among my friends on the right. In his new book “Live Not By Lies,” for instance, Rod Dreher warns against the rise of a “soft totalitarianism,” distinguished not by formal police-state tactics but by pressure from the heights of big media, big tech and the education system, which are forging “powerful mechanisms for controlling thought and discourse.”

Dreher is a religious conservative, but many right-of-center writers who are more culturally liberal (at least under pre-2016 definitions of the term) share a version of his fears. Indeed, what we call the American “right” increasingly just consists of anyone, whether traditionalist or secularist or somewhere in between, who feels alarmed by growing ideological conformity within the media and educational and corporate establishments.

Let me try to elaborate on what this right is seeing. The initial promise of the internet era was radical decentralization, but instead over the last 20 years, America’s major cultural institutions have become consolidated, with more influence in the hands of fewer institutions. The decline of newsprint has made a few national newspapers ever more influential, the most-trafficked portions of the internet have fallen under the effective control of a small group of giant tech companies, and the patterns of meritocracy have ensured that the people staffing these institutions are drawn from the same self-reproducing professional class. (A similar trend may be playing out with vertical integration in the entertainment business, while in academia, a declining student population promises to close smaller colleges and solidify the power of the biggest, most prestigious schools.)

“This is what totalitarianism looks like in our century”by Sohrab Ahmari https://nypost.com/2020/10/14/if-unreliable-is-the-issue-why-did-social-media-never-block-anti-trump-stories/

Riaz Haq said...

It is generally believed that most people in Pakistan's northwestern areas support the Taliban because of their own inclination toward Islamism, but the reality is somewhat different. It is true that the Islamist group is liked by many in the region, but the number of people who oppose the Taliban and the Pakistani state's alleged support to the outfit has also increased manifold in the past two decades.


Most of these ethnic Pashtuns are wary of a never-ending war in their region and blame both the Taliban and Islamabad for the devastation in their areas.

As the Taliban are gaining strength in Afghanistan, liberal Pashtuns fear it is just a matter of time before Islamists make a comeback in Pakistan's northwestern areas, too.

There are already reports of Pakistani citizens holding Taliban flags and chanting Islamist slogans at rallies in areas close to the Afghan border. Islamic clerics in various parts of the country are also soliciting support for the Afghan Taliban and calling for donations.

This comes amid rapid Taliban advances in Afghanistan ahead of the complete withdrawal of NATO troops by September.

Opposition to the Taliban
Progressive Pashtuns recently held a convention in Charsadda, a town in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

They denounced the Taliban's assaults on Afghan forces.

They also condemned the United States' Doha deal with the Taliban , saying it practically legitimized the militant group.

The convention, which was composed of leading Pashtun nationalist parties, intellectuals, academics and left-leaning political workers, called for an immediate cease-fire across Afghanistan to pave the way for peace talks.

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), an anti-war group, has also held massive rallies in several parts of the province in the past few weeks. The PTM has condemned the Taliban and expressed its support for the Afghan government.

Support for Ashraf Ghani
Said Alam Mehsud, a PTM leader, believes that the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan would suffer immensely if the Taliban managed to take over Kabul. "We support President Ashraf Ghani's government because it is legitimate. The Taliban are Pakistani mercenaries who want to topple an internationally recognized government," he told DW.

"The Taliban destroy schools, stop women from working, hand down inhuman punishments and kill innocent civilians. How can we support them?" he said.

On the contrary, Ghani's government, according to Mehsud, carried out several development projects in Afghanistan. The human rights situation has also improved under his administration, he added.

Bushra Gohar, a Pashtun politician and former lawmaker, agrees with Mehsud. "The PTM and other Pashtun groups are supporting Ghani because our people don't want to see the return of the Taliban's barbaric rule," she told DW.

She said that, despite Taliban advances, Afghans are revolting against Islamists. "We see an uprising against the Taliban in Afghanistan. People are taking to the streets to show support to their government and the security forces."

Samina Afridi, a Peshawar-based political analyst, says Pashtuns on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border want education, human rights and democracy, but the Taliban are against that.

The 'Taliban project'
Pakistani authorities have long accused liberal Pashtun groups, including the PTM, of destabilizing the country at Afghanistan's behest.

The PTM has gained considerable strength in the past four years, drawing tens of thousands of people to its protest rallies. Its supporters are critical of the war on terror, which they say has ravaged Pashtun areas in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.