Use Dialogue, Not violence

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There is too much bragging and boasting about Waziristan being occupied and pacified by the Pakistani state.

The notion or belief is utopian, Quixotic and oversimplistic.

The Pashtuns politically speaking were kept disunited and weak by all governments that ruled this part of the world from 1526 till to date. The only five exceptions were as following :

  • Overthrow of the Mughals by Sher Shah Suri in 1540. This period lasted till 1555.
  • The epic Ghilzai Rebellion of Mirwais Hotak and his successors against the hated Persians in 1709, when the Pashtuns liberated Afghanistan and overran Iran.This lasted from 1709 to 1729.
  • The Golden period of the Durranis which lasted from 1747 till 1978.
  • The radical Pashtun dominated leftist period which lasted from 1978 till 1992.
  • The ongoing Pashtun rebellion in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 2001 till to date.

I have not included the Taliban period from 1996 till 2001 because Taliban were Pakistani stooges. However, after 2001 when the Musharraf military junta of Pakistan stabbed Taliban in the back the Taliban were transformed from puppets into true freedom fighters.

Traditionally, the Pashtuns were used as cannon fodder by all Muslim rulers of this region from around 1000 AD till 2001, barring the above five periods.

The Turks and others used them from around 994 till 1451 as cannon fodder.

The Mughals used the Pashtuns from 1526 to around 1657. However after 1657 the Mughal Pashtun relations deteriorated and this remained a constant factor till the demise of the Mughals from the Pashtun areas till 1739.

The Pakistani state adopted a conciliatory attitude towards the Pashuns under Mr. Jinnah who withdrew the army from the tribal areas in 1947. The Pashtuns were manipulated and used as warriors in the Kashmir war of 1947-48.

In the Afghan war of 1978-1992 and the civil war of 1992-2001 again the Pakistani state successfully used Pashtuns against Pashtuns as well as in Indian occupied Kashmir. Ironically, the Pashtuns were duped into destroying the only Pashtun dominated state in the world in 1978-1992 and from 1992 till 2001. Simultaneously, the Pashtuns were used as cheap cannon fodder in Indian occupied Kashmir. 2001 was the watershed in Pashtun as well as Muslim history.

General Musharraf the illegitimate tinpot Pakistani dictator drove two nails in Pakistans coffin when he :

  • Stabbed the Pashtun Taliban in the back by agreeing, albeit under coercion and greed to be a US vassal in October 2001. The resultant US occupation of Afghanistan and Pakistani states collaboration totally destroyed the credibility of the Pakistani state in Pashtun eyes. It is this writ of the government which was destroyed in 2001, so why talk about writ of Pakistani government anywhere after 9/11. Morally, Pakistani state lost all its legitimacy after 9/11 u-turn of tinpot Musharraf.
  • Made rapproachment with India over Kashmir in 2001-2, thus, halting Pashtun infiltration in Indian occupied Kashmir. Many hundred thousand highly trained Pashtuns were left free to channelise their urges for thrill and action as soldiers of Allah in gthe FATA and Afghanistan.
  • Launching the Pakistan Army without provocation into Waziristan in 2003 and later in Bajaur, Mohmand etc.

Such was the hatred against Pakistan as a result of these actions that in 2005, when there was a riot in Jalalabad, while Indian and Pakistani consulates were close to each other, the Pakistani consulate was attacked and the Indian consulate remained untouched.

The Pashtuns, at the intellectual level, realised that they had been made fools since 1947. All along from 1978 till to date, major infrastructure as well as institutions were damaged in Pashtun populated areas. The main losers in the US occupation of Afghanistan were Pashtuns.

Thus, the advent of characters like Nek Mohammad and Baitullah Mehsud. The leftist Khalqi element in Afghans also originate from Paktiya and Paktika adjacent to the tribal areas. These Khalqis grew beards over the passage of times while trimming their moustaches. These also joined hands with their tribal brothers.Russian aid if any came via these Khalqis.

Baitullah Mahsud, whether aided or not aided by the US, India or Russia, is an indigenous product. He seems to realize that the Pashtuns were manipulated by the Pakistani establishment from 1947 till 2001. Thus, when he attacked the Punjab province, he might have been vindicating the destruction meted out to Afghanistan, Kabul, Kandahar and FATA from 1978 till to date.

Keeping in context this background the Waziristan operation will not succeed :

  • The terrain in Waziristan is far more difficult than Swat. Waziristan, because of the terrain, is a logisticians nightmare.
  • Long border with Afghanistan allows the tribal insurgents to withdraw into Afghanistan at will. On Afghan side, there is hardly any border force to stop them and if there is any,their hearts are with the insurgents.
  • Population on both sides of border belongs to the same tribes.Thus sanctuary is not an issue.
  • The issue of foreign support is also in favour of tribesmen since India and Russia thanks to Afghanistan and Kashmir have a debt to settle.

In brief :

  • The Pashtuns and Punjabis were divided because a non-Punjabi Musharraf blundered criminally, thus, alienating the Pashtuns.No fault of the Punjabis.
  • The backbone of Pakistan was Pashtun-Punjabi cooperation. But this ended in 2001 because of Musharraf’s criminal policies of adventurism and opportunism. The people of Punjab have no enmity with Pashtuns but Pashtuns were alienated with Punjab because of criminally opportunistic policies of a non-Punjabi opportunist par excellence known as Pervez Musharraf and as Pervez Besharaf in Afghanistan.
  • Instead of launching the army into Waziristan, the Pakistani state needs to politically engage the Pashtuns. Give incentives. Rebuild infrastructure. Announce a visa-free regime for Pakistan and Afghanistan. Declare the tribal areas duty free zones and allow the tribals to import and export for Afghanistan.

Nothing in history is inevitable. If Pakistan is to be preserved, the Punjabis and Pashtuns have to be friends. It is time that mistakes of the criminally opportunistic Musharraf are not repeated.

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A. H Amin is a writer, journalist, ex editor of Defence Journal (Pakistan), ex Editor of Globe (Pakistan); author of "Indo Pak Wars from 1947 to 1971," "Man’s Role in History" and "Land of the Pure (short stories)." He contributed this article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Sindh, Pakistan.

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