No liberty without equality
Never had so much tears been shed in a rally like the tears shed that day. Families of missing persons joined the rally hoping that Manzoor Pashteen will somehow recover their lost siblings. It was amazing to see so much hope in those sleepless eyes.
8th April might not make it to the history books but will surely be remembered for a long time in Peshawar. The Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) rally, which though lacked much in arrangements, was one of the biggest rallies ever held in Peshawar, the central city of 45 mln Pakhtuns. Whereas all political parties or religious groups have proper organizational structures and large sums to spend on publicity and arrangements, the PTM had neither. There were no buses bringing people from other districts, there was no free food or accommodation for participants yet PTM managed to attract a huge crowed. Number of participants in rallies always differ depending on who is giving them so lets not debate that.
The most surprising element of the rally was the participation of a large number of women and children, especially the families of missing persons. They carried photos and placards of their loved ones who had gone missing and shared their harrowing ordeals. PTM provided a platform where these personal stories are heard and recorded. Never had so much tears been shed in a rally like the tears shed that day. Families of missing persons joined the rally hoping that Manzoor Pashteen will somehow recover their lost siblings. It was amazing to see so much hope in those sleepless eyes. Not even in rallies of sitting Prime Ministers have people been so hopeful. Standing in the rain, watching women in burqas holding to the photos of their loved ones, trying to shield their children from rain with their burqas, one wondered how could anyone not listen to their plight. But that’s not all, women contribution in the proceedings was no less, they gave blazing speeches, raised raving slogans and sang revolutionary anthems that reminded of the Malala of Maiwand whose one Tappa cost the Brits the battle of Maiwand.
Young love if you do not fall in the battle of Maiwind;
By God someone is saving you as a token of shame;
It was raining during most of the rally and with no cover people stood in the open all drenched. There was very limited sitting arrangement which was occupied. The ground was wet so one couldn’t sit on the ground. Men, women, young and old had to stand in the rain for the whole duration of the rally. In spite of the terrible sound system there was youthful energy. They responded to every call more enthusiastically than before. Nothing could dampen their spirits.
There was a leadership vacuum waiting for someone to fill. The PTM was at the right place at the right time. When they started, they were just a few lads, people joined the rebellious march because they were as aggrieved. PTM in its few months of existence has achieved more for the Pakhtuns than any. The poison of fear had spread throughout the heart of Pakhtun lands. Even in their intimate private sittings they were careful not to say anything offensive. They couldn’t vent their grievances for fear of being kidnapped and killed, suffering all the humiliation silently. PTM gave people the courage to speak against injustice and infringements on their rights. The anthems sung by the participants showed their intense desire to get back their peaceful paradise, their culture and their dignity, destroyed by state oppression.
On the 12th April the Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa withdrew the illegal taxes on 35 items of daily use. On 17th April the President signed the extension of Supreme Court of Pakistan and Peshawar High Court to FATA Bill which was gathering dust since its approval by the National Assembly. These are in addition to the withdrawing of watan cards, reducing number of check posts, a more humane attitude where the check posts still exist and sending in teams to clear the landmines. These are small steps in comparison to the amount of destruction that took place in FATA but steps in the right direction.
These are not the only steps taken by the govt, Pakistan Tahafuz Movement has been brought in; a PTM Vs PTM, efforts are still on to create divisions among PTM leadership and fata residents by pitching Maliks against the youth. Political parties have cautioned their workers not to join the movement and some parties have even punished their workers. The KP govt is considering disciplinary action against the govt servants who attended PTM rally. Rao Anwar received a hero’s welcome in the Supreme Court and lives in his house in spite of having blood of four hundred innocent people on his hands. Mainstream media is still ignoring PTM, trying to prove PTM as agents of foreign countries.
All sane voices have advised the govt to show grace and give a sympathetic hearing to the protesters. Unfortunately the govt is bent on creating chaos. It has shelved the reforms and denied the additional development funds promised for FATA mainstreaming and rehabilitation. The fata administration, proverbially incompetent and untrustworthy has somehow shifted every blame on the security forces. The President or Governor KP are yet to talk to the tribes on the prevailing conditions to reassure them. They have conveniently absolved themselves from any responsibility.
PTM is planning a rally in Lahore on 22nd April, to speak for all the oppressed of Pakistan. If they get half the response they got in Peshawar and Quetta, which they surely will, this rally will prove to be the proverbial last straw. Before the country ends up in more chaos the govt should immediately form a truth and reconciliation commission to the satisfaction of the protestors and give assurances that whatever is recommended by this commission will be implemented in letter and spirit. The PTM youth is not going to settle for anything less and as their strength increases so shall their demands, so beware.