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Pakistan's Pashtuns, looking for statehood, may look to Taliban

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  • Pakistan's Pashtuns, looking for statehood, may look to Taliban

    Dont know how likely this is but we'll probably find out if Waziristan is ever invaded.

    Pakistan's Pashtuns, looking for statehood, may look to Taliban

    The Taliban could expand their influence to more Pashtun areas by merging its pan-Islamic goals with the long-suppressed dream of a Pashtun state.


    By Ben Arnoldy | Staff writer
    from the October 4, 2009 edition

    PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN - A long-dormant nationalism movement among ethnic Pashtuns shows signs of reawakening as Pakistan – at United States urging – has boosted military activity in their region and as political efforts for autonomy have stalled.

    The most basic Pashtun demand, changing the name of the North West Frontier Province to Pakhtunkhwa ("Land of the Pashtuns"), was thwarted in September by dominant ethnic Punjabis. A new faction of Pashtun nationalists has protested in Peshawar, the capital of the NWFP. Leaders warn that younger cadres may abandon politics for arms.

    Stemming widespread discontent among Pashtuns is important because they hold the keys to the war on terror. Their lands straddling the Afghan-Pakistani border are a haven for the Taliban and top Al Qaeda figures like Osama bin Laden.

    Many Pashtuns are frustrated with the Islamic militants' presence and the military offensives they have brought – anger that secular leaders, who have traditionally led the push for autonomy, can channel against religious extremism.

    But a peril also exists: Islamic militants may become the force seen as best able to deliver autonomy for Pashtun regions.

    "The danger of the [largely Pashtun] Taliban overtly using Pashtun nationalism to justify an independent Pashtun state is small because they are operating with financial support of jihadi forces," says Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy in Washington and author of a recent report on Pashtun nationalism.

    "But what could emerge, if the Taliban were to get control over large areas of the border districts in Afghanistan, is some sort of Islamic emirate which would in fact be a Pashtun state."

    That could expand to more Pashtun areas by merging the appeal of pan-Islamic ideas and the long suppressed dream of a Pashtun state, he argues.

    US troops in Afghanistan and the Pakistani military would then be fighting Pashtun pride on top of other passions fueling the insurgencies.

    Two million Pashtuns flee Swat fighting

    Since 2001, Pakistani, Afghan, and NATO troops have rushed into Pashtun lands. US drones fill the sky. This year has been especially rough for Pashtuns in Pakistan, with more than 2 million forced to flee military offensives in Swat and nearby areas.

    "It's like a Pashtun genocide," says Ayeen Khan, of Swabi, NWFP, echoing a phrase heard across the region. "In different areas a lot of Pashtuns are being killed. They need someone to stop the killing."

    Many who fled the fighting said they want neither the Taliban nor the Army in their lands. They say the Punjabi-dominated security agencies control both forces, with the Army periodically fighting the militants, then receding and letting the Taliban reimpose their terrorizing rule. Pashtun civilians say they are caught in the middle of this "double game."

    Whether that remains the case is debated, but for years Pakistan's intelligence agencies supported the Taliban and other Islamic militants to counter secular Pashtun nationalists.

    "After 9/11, Pakistan announced itself as an ally of the world, but actually they kept on continuing their policies," says Said Alam Mehsud, head of a newly revived nationalist group called the Pashtun Awareness Movement. "If this [Pashtun] nation is able to convey its actual feelings to the world and the world understands, we will not only be able to defeat terrorism, we can achieve those [nationalist] goals as well."

    Pashtuns want an end to the Taliban, says Dr. Mehsud, but it should be Pashtuns who flush them out – not the Army backed by the US.

    "The Punjabi military presence … in these Pashtun areas has been poison, because historically you had conflict between Pashtuns and Punjabis," Harrison says. The result has been Pashtuns becoming "politicized and radicalized."

    After 9/11, Pakistan did try to compel Pashtun tribesmen to tackle militancy through traditional councils (jirgas) and tribal militias (lashkars). But both proved ineffective. Meanwhile, Pashtuns are making political demands that, if met, could perhaps win some goodwill.

    Mehsud says 300 members of his Pashtun Awareness group this spring took to Peshawar's streets for Pashtun rights, such as creating a province for Pashtuns that includes NWFP and the neighboring Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and allowing it to keep more of its resources.

    Lack of respect in media

    Some respect would be nice, too, he suggests. "They present our culture in films, TV, drama, writing as if these people are the most backward."

    After almost two years in office, the predominantly Pashtun Awami National Party, which rules the NWFP and has ties to the government in Islamabad, has found that working within the system has not helped it win greater autonomy for Pashtuns.

    Despite promises, President Asif Ali Zardari has not signed an order to allow democratic representation in FATA. Nor has a collective punishment law there been amended to exclude women and children. The military and intelligence establishment are blocking efforts to merge FATA into the NWFP, says Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani journalist.

    Mr. Ali warns these setbacks mean the secular ANP may lose in the next elections – to Islamic parties that oppose NATO in Afghanistan.

    The ANP leader tasked with FATA issues, Lateef Afridi, does not dispute that progress is slow. He worries the original generation of nationalists will be replaced by more volatile youths.

    "There is a bit of thinking that the possibility of getting these rights through normal means is not there and therefore we have to adopt other means," including "the question of taking up arms," says Mr. Afridi.

    But like many US experts, he doesn't think the Taliban will attract the youths. The militants have waged war on ANP workers and secularists.

    Christine Fair, a regional expert at Georgetown University, says Islamabad ought to rename the province and share power and resources more equitably. "[The US] should be promoting constitutionalism, and the Constitution does call for devolution," she says.

    Harrison urges more US action, including withholding aid until Pakistan merges FATA into the NWFP and allows the money to flow through the provincial government. He also argues the US should curb the use of drones. But Mehsud, Afridi, and some other secular Pashtuns feel the drones have helped pin down militants. "I openly support drone attacks," says Mehsud. "These are very well targeted."

  • #2
    I don't know what else to expect when you have greedy fools drawing lines on a map separating whole ethnicities. Humans never worked that way, never will. On the other hand, we have always drawn lines on some type of map. Ethnicities should be given great consideration to avoid problems.

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    • #3
      This proposition is all too believable. I have written elsewhere of what I refer to as the "arc of instability" which basically includes the states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and to a lesser extent Sri Lanka. From an historical perspective they were all part of the British Raj; under control to a greater or lesser extent. Afghanistan and the northwest frontier of Pakistan were always flash points, and when Imperial Britain contested Afghanistan and the Tsarist Russians became involved, it is said that the blood of Europeans fertilized the soil. India of course is a Hindu state but the others are Muslims. The carve-up of the old British Raj after World War II, when the UK lay in ruins and an economic basket-case, became a disaster. The accumulated wisdom of those explorers, missionaries, traders, soldiers, geographers and cartographers showed quite clearly how those countries should have been divided along tribal lines. The most striking example is that of Pashtuns who travel between three countries and have kinship relationships across the artificial lines drawn on maps by mandarins in Whitehall.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by waldo41 View Post
        This proposition is all too believable. I have written elsewhere of what I refer to as the "arc of instability" which basically includes the states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and to a lesser extent Sri Lanka. From an historical perspective they were all part of the British Raj; under control to a greater or lesser extent. Afghanistan and the northwest frontier of Pakistan were always flash points, and when Imperial Britain contested Afghanistan and the Tsarist Russians became involved, it is said that the blood of Europeans fertilized the soil. India of course is a Hindu state but the others are Muslims. The carve-up of the old British Raj after World War II, when the UK lay in ruins and an economic basket-case, became a disaster. The accumulated wisdom of those explorers, missionaries, traders, soldiers, geographers and cartographers showed quite clearly how those countries should have been divided along tribal lines. The most striking example is that of Pashtuns who travel between three countries and have kinship relationships across the artificial lines drawn on maps by mandarins in Whitehall.
        Your "arc of instability" concept is quite ignorant. Even more ignorant is your view that Indian nationalism was actually a British idea. Britain was in the infamous game of "Divide and Rule" matey, they would have gladly cut India into smaller pieces if their was an opportunity to. Indian National Congress was not created by the British, it was an anti-British entity, Indian National Army was not created by the British, it was an anti-British entity; and Indian nationalism at the time was also not a British creation, but again, was an anti-British entity.
        Cow is the only animal that not only inhales oxygen, but also exhales it.
        -Rekha Arya, Former Minister of Animal Husbandry

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        • #5
          Indeed, by all means touch the sky and be proud of Indian nationalism and I achievements - I respect them but the British were the conquerers and the only reason they did not divide and rule further was logistics and the natural and necessary de-colonisation that took place after World War II. Your remarks in no way invalidate my claim - existing Indian society (how many thousands years old?) was conquered but never fully defeated. History is a rewarding study and when you're pushing 70, no one listens. I meant absolutely no offence to any country, race or society. Take a long cold hard look at European colonisation of Africa, South America and Asia and how mighty empires fell.

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          • #6
            Incidentally, I'm not keen on being referred to as matey, mate or and other designation in the same way. You may call me Doctor, Mr or waldo: I'm not a hostile.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by waldo41 View Post
              Incidentally, I'm not keen on being referred to as matey, mate or and other designation in the same way. You may call me Doctor, Mr or waldo: I'm not a hostile.
              My apologies.

              Originally posted by waldo41 View Post
              Indeed, by all means touch the sky and be proud of Indian nationalism and I achievements - I respect them but the British were the conquerers and the only reason they did not divide and rule further was logistics and the natural and necessary de-colonisation that took place after World War II. Your remarks in no way invalidate my claim - existing Indian society (how many thousands years old?) was conquered but never fully defeated. History is a rewarding study and when you're pushing 70, no one listens. I meant absolutely no offence to any country, race or society. Take a long cold hard look at European colonisation of Africa, South America and Asia and how mighty empires fell.
              Sorry, I still don't get your point. You initially posted that the British should have divided India into smaller pieces, and I gave you examples showing the British were not exactly in the position to do so when all Indians were willing to unite against the British in the first place. There was never a Punjab independence movement, or a Maratha independence movement, or Bengal independence movement; all freedom fighters fought to drive the British out of the entire subcontinent, not only from their own respective regions.

              Also, from your earlier post,
              The accumulated wisdom of those explorers, missionaries, traders, soldiers, geographers and cartographers showed quite clearly how those countries should have been divided along tribal lines.
              What "tribal" lines are you talking of exactly? Also, Exactly what "wisdom of those explorers, missionaries, traders, soldiers, geographers and cartographers" are you talking about? You don't seem to have the slightest clue about the political landscape of the subcontinent at the time of the British arrival and thats where your complete and utter ignorance gets to me.

              If their was any wisdom the British gathered, it was of how people from all different parts of the subcontinent were uniting as one to drive the British out!
              Cow is the only animal that not only inhales oxygen, but also exhales it.
              -Rekha Arya, Former Minister of Animal Husbandry

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by waldo41 View Post
                India of course is a Hindu state but the others are Muslims. The carve-up of the old British Raj after World War II, when the UK lay in ruins and an economic basket-case, became a disaster. The accumulated wisdom of those explorers, missionaries, traders, soldiers, geographers and cartographers showed quite clearly how those countries should have been divided along tribal lines. The most striking example is that of Pashtuns who travel between three countries and have kinship relationships across the artificial lines drawn on maps by mandarins in Whitehall.
                First and foremost India is not a Hindu state. India does not define itself by it's majority religious group,as it does not require an excuse like Pakistan for it's national identity.
                The freedom movement was the identity,where numerous religious groups joined together to fight for independence.

                The second point regarding division of the Indian subcontinent being a disaster, hardly so. For the UK & US it was worth every penny of investment. Pakistan was created to prevent Russian access to Indian ocean. It was created to be a rent state. It has & is fulfilling the role quite well.
                It is obvious that India, a former colony of Britian will never side with side with Britian to fight the Russians.

                As far as what is happening now, US & UK still want to save their rent boy from destruction as it will serve future needs like new Russia, Iran, China & India. They are willing to sacrifice their own young men to save Pakistan.

                Says something doesn't it.

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                • #9
                  I have written elsewhere of what I refer to as the "arc of instability" which basically includes the states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and to a lesser extent Sri Lanka.
                  In all these entities India happens to be the most stable entity. Amongst all these nations and in India's neighbourhood, only India is a mature democratic, pluralistic, secular stable entity growing almost as fast as China.

                  30 years or maybe less, the US and Asia may not be able to handle a totalitarian and authoritarian China's 'not so peaceful' rise all alone. What other nation will have the capability to offer Asia and African countries an alternative and incluvist model for development? Only India.

                  India is showing that example right here in the neighbourhood. Look at the neighbours who've pitched their tent on China..

                  1. Myanmar: Dumps
                  2. Nepal: Dumps because of China backed Maoists.
                  3. Pakistan: Dumps again China model impresses their PA and Govt.
                  4. Bangladesh: Dumps again.

                  If you see India provides an alternate vision to a totalitarian ideology of development that China espouses. It's a pillar of stability to that vision of development and it's proceeding with scorching pace. India's GDP today is what china's was in 2003. India's knowledge industry based exports almost equal all of Saudi's oil exports. India exports more cars than China does, India buys 15 million mobiles every month ahead of China. In the next 4-5 years it will invest half a trillion USD in infrastructure.

                  These are not the hallmarks of a country in an arc of instability. Possibly the hallmarks of a country that may ultimately bring stability to the region if we manage to reduce China's influence.

                  Take Afghanistan, look at what India is doing there. Today Kabul gets uninterrupted power due to India laying grids over thousands of miles, roads are bing developed, schools children being fed free meals, democratic institutions in Afghanistan being developed, small scale industries and skills being provided to ordinary Afghans. Thats giving hope and empowerment ot people. Instead just dissing India off the way you did, it's also the responsibility of other countries in some way to understand what stability it brings to the region and beyond. Lets choose our words a bit carefully Waldo sir. :)

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                  • #10
                    Very good points Subba. India is a stabilizing presence in the region but what about the inequality there? I think that could be a factor there as that is how terrorism breeds.

                    The dirt poor of India could be a problem in the future.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Kodiakmarmoset View Post
                      Very good points Subba. India is a stabilizing presence in the region but what about the inequality there? I think that could be a factor there as that is how terrorism breeds.

                      The dirt poor of India could be a problem in the future.
                      This is the challenge that India faces. It need not be a reason for instability as long as India remains a democracy and people are able to exercise their rights every 5 years to dump the politicians who have not been performing.

                      Decades of the Hindu rate of growth (3-4%) denied the vast majority of population the fruits of development. But in the last decade the higher growth rates have seen the trickle down effect showing promising sign of becoming a deluge.

                      In the recent slow down, if you look at the indian industry which was focussed on the rural markets showed very impressive performance over other competitotrs who were more city centric in their marketing.

                      As far as terrorism in india it has not been due to poverty but due to a combination of factors of

                      Lack of development
                      Corruption
                      Politics of the lowest order.
                      External role

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