The Pashtun March and the Right Side of History

Source: Youtube

A day ago, a massive procession took place in Peshawar of a movement that is being shunned by the mainstream media in Pakistan like the plague. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement or the Protection of the Pashtuns Movement, spearheaded by young fearless activist Peshteen Manzoor.

The movement started with the extrajudicial killing of a charismatic young man Naqeeb Mehsud in Karachi. It was not long when the Pashtuns started to see a pattern in an almost national scale of profiling. It was not long before it was noticed that people of a certain ethnic and lingual persuasion were being stopped more frequently at the military checkposts.

Of course, there is some recent history to the predominantly Punjabi military being suspicious of rebellion among Pashtuns. The war on terror, the anti-state Islamist Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the attacks on high-ranking military personnel, and the latest friction between Islamabad and Kabul have all been a part of it.

Now with the recent xenophobia setting in about the Afghans, it would not be wrong to say that the Pashtuns have never felt more alienated. Traditionally, the Pashtuns have never really considered Afghan a hard border and it has been porous throughout the history of Pakistan. But with the recent military leaders putting stricter fences across it, and the way the military polices parts of the Pashtun majority Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the FATA considering the Mullah Fazlullah episode.

However, it has been an open secret that the military has been traditionally backing up the Islamist elements in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and has always considered the secular and leftist elements a threat, as in the rest of Pakistan. People even raise question marks about the way the military operation was carried out against the militants. This leaves the Pashtuns, with a good number far more progressive than the social conservative majority in Punjab, with absolutely no choice but to follow a very narrow path of nationalism that the military establishment approves of.

All of this becomes a disaster and an extrajudicial killing by the law enforcement in Karachi proves to be the last straw. Forget the Balochs, dozens of Pashtun families have coming out with their list of missing persons, which are in all likelihood have been abducted and detained by state security and military intelligence agencies. The state of the federation is not strong indeed.

But it is very important to think beyond the idea of Pakistan or the precarious federation that the nationalists so love to cling on to. It is important to give precedence to human rights over any brutal ideas of nationalism.

Your claims to support the dissenting minorities in governments you don’t like sound hypocritical if you are not sensitive about the rights of your own. And you can’t possibly claim to be a democracy if you are cornering dissenting voices like that. The same happened with Mama Qadeer, who was leading a dissenting movement for the rights of the missing Baloch people. All they want is a day in the court. But then again, the support for democracy, or even the understanding of the idea, is already scarce in a country where you find a great conservative nationalist majority rooting for the military rule.

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People like Zaid Hamid, a pro-military nationalist opinion leader, are already calling Manzoor Ahmed Pashteen a traitor and an agent of India’s RAW. That is the way to further alienate an already wounded community and to push a dissenting patriot out of the circle of debate, especially when he insists that his movement is non-violent and only looking for justice in the court of law. How are those unfair demands? Some say it was the movement that prompted Army Chief Bajwa to visit the slain Naqeeb Mehsud’s home, only five days ago, and the DG ISPR also had to acknowledge Pashteen in his press conference.

Often the idea of avoiding repeating another Bangladesh is brought up when it comes to the rights of the people of provinces other than Punjab, but the Pashtoon Tahafuz Movement is an opportunity for food for thought. Perhaps, there has been a greater disconnect with the Balochs but the Punjabis and Pashtoon live in such an intertwined society that a conflict between them will spell utter chaos. This is why it is important not to push a marginalized group further to the brink and to further escalate tensions by racial profiling, whether subtle or more explicit. It is sad if anyone has respect for a state which promotes such discrimination.

It is very important to stand on the right side of history today because even if you are a Punjabi that sides with Manzoor Pashteen, history might not judge you kindly in the future. This movement for the demands of just being treated fairly needs to reach beyond ethnic lines.

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The Writing on the Wall

Source: clarionproject.org

Source: clarionproject.org

Well, the writing on the wall is clear.

Now it begins. So much for the days of freewheelin’ secular and leftist bloggers. It’s all over.

Now is the time for the Islamist social conservative and the militant nationalist to reclaim the space on the social media that they probably should never have given up. So that these secular bloggers never should have started in the first place.

Now begins the time to silence our pens and tongues from dissenting.

On the bright side, at least the social conservatives and religious fanatics might stand against the banning of social media websites, which actually comes as second nature to our authoritarian government.

As I said earlier that the Jamaat-e-Islami goons could be the first on the streets protesting a facebook ban.

But I’d understand if you accuse me of too much optimism here. Because the picture on the ground… on the cyberspace, rather… is quite dismal.

We get it. There are some matters which are too sacred and important to be discussed.

But whichever force is behind the sudden disappearance of the three bloggers, could you please return them to safety as citizens of this country?

While we are sadly aware that an allegation of blasphemy is considered verdict in this society, and even though that’s what the fight is all about, could we still hope for some respite for them?

We totally understand. We know that perhaps some of the nationalistic entities absolutely have no regard how the world sees us in terms of our tolerance for free speech.

We would keep that in mind whenever we are going to write. Because we want to live peacefully in the one and only life that has been enforced upon us.

Not only do we assure of good behavior, we would also be particularly respectful of any ideas that is held by our social conservative ideological adversaries. Because there really is no other choice.

But even if we do adhere to these rules and do not wake up the dormant, if not dead, conscience of the nation, we still cannot ignore the damage done. We simply cannot ignore the “disappearance” of the secular bloggers.

And now we hear that all of them have committed blasphemy. How convenient. So, who is the entity that takes such action against such people and how have we decided that they are guilty?

Of course, the ones who get caught are always the blasphemers and the traitors.

Alright, we get it. There are certain lines that we are not supposed to cross. But not everyone is going to agree. There are always going to be some people who are never going to agree.

What are we going to do with them?

Are we going to make them disappear, kill them, or try them all for blasphemy and treason? Hang them on public squares?

And if yes, then what is the message that we are sending to the world about Pakistan? What sort of a country treats its citizens in this way?

The guardians of national security should think about it.

Now this may offend the loyalist of the state and religion, but there is a reason it is our duty to stand up for these missing bloggers.

One of us could be next any day.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

I Brought You Flowers… and Got Arrested

Source: siasat.pk

Source: siasat.pk/Express News

What will become of you in a country in which people are arrested for bringing someone flowers.

Maybe I am exaggerating the horrific nature of their crime, because these men happened to have been standing outside a college exclusively for girls for the probable intention of harassment. You guessed it, on the demonic, capitalistic occasion of Valentine’s Day.

But that is not the point, because hey, moral policing on Valentine’s Day is nothing new. Moral policing and big government measures for all the wrong reasons have been a feature of the current administration.

What is noticeable in the incident is that in Pakistan you can get arrested when you are not even breaking the law, apparently.

The incident occurred in Faisalabad when dozens of male youths were arrested by the Punjab police for standing outside a girl’s college and allegedly “making noise“, whatever that means. It can even be argued that the noise was harassment and that they infringed on the institution, but I am not too sure if the latter really was the case.

The police can be rightfully called as a security measure, but why would they proceed to arrest them without any reported wrongdoing? In a news report I watched, the police officer was just having the question of them standing there. Whatever happened to the right of assembly?

The news report even mentioned special security arrangement in hotels and restaurants to prevent any wrongdoing or immoral activities. What in the world does that mean?

I mean, are all  those security measures related to a “festival”? Then why are weddings not raided?

The arrest was probably a preemptive measure to prevent possible or further harassment. Yes, it seems that pre-crime is not science fiction anymore. But of course, arrest on harassment would make complete sense.

Alright, I concede that the act of giving Valentine’s Day cards and flowers to someone (like that) is arguably cheesy and inappropriate, but it is not really the kind of offense that someone should be locked up for.

But I do want to give the police the benefit of the doubt and would like to think that they responded to the complaint of the college officials, but still the boys were not apparently breaking any law. The police could have guarded the scene if they thought the security situation was unsatisfactory.

But without a second thought, the police only ended up ruining their public record of a number of people for nothing at all, especially because they probably arrested some people who were there to pick up their relatives. Rest assure, these were more of raids than anything else.

And of course no one cares about the mental agony and harassment that they went through before they would be released. That is just not a priority for a nation obsessed with false sexual moral righteousness.

But what is alarming is that in a country where the police can just arrest people without a reasonable cause, a warrant or even without an instance of crime, what would be the status of those perceived to be rebels or enemies of the state?

The issue of Baloch “missing persons” is often brought up, but how can you expect suspected rebels to be treated fairly, and hey just about anyone can be a suspected rebel anywhere in the country, when citizens with no such credentials are treated so harshly.

And it does not even matter if the citizen knows their rights because the cop would only respond to reason with overwhelming slaps on the back of the head. The trademark policing maneuver in the country.

But nevertheless, it seems that Pakistani citizens must only leave their homes with a copy of the fundamental rights in the Constitution and the penal code with them to prove to the police when and why they can arrest them.

But perhaps the problem lies with the Constitution itself, in which Article 10 lacks much clarity and speaks very loosely about the “detention” of a citizen. This pretty much encourages the prevalent detention on suspicion practice of the law enforcers.

The Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan states:

No person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.

But more importantly, the Article 14 states:

(1) The dignity of man and, subject to law, the privacy of home, shall be inviolable.

(2) No person shall be subjected to torture for the purpose of extracting evidence.

Obviously the Constitution comes with countless caveats when it comes to the inviolability of the “dignity of man” and the “privacy of home”. Without the requirement of showing a prior lawful document pertaining to the cause, the articles could even arguably be in conflict with each other.

The provisions are somewhat vague and fail to convey a clear idea of a more precise guideline to prevent abuse of authority. Not that we can be sure that the police all over Pakistan would still read and follow it anyway.

But in comparison, the following is how the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads, which is an inseparable part of the Bill of Rights.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

As opposed to the apparently compulsive right of detention provided for by the Pakistani constitution, the Fourth Amendment is very specific on the line it draws between the liberty of the citizen and the authority of the state.

It even goes to the length of requiring the mention of specifics in the warrant to make the search or seizure lawful. In comparison, Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan does not even mention the word “warrant“, correct me if I am wrong.

US Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) are even suing the President of the United States for violating the Fourth Amendment rights over unwarranted NSA surveillance. Whether you agree with it or not, this is the extent of empowerment that the Constitution accords to the citizens in the United States.

But as long as liberty of the law abiding and peaceful citizens of Pakistan is continued to be abused at the subjective will of the law enforcers of the land, it is hard to trust its government to be democratic.