by Asif Haroon Raja
Manzoor Mehsud, hailing from a humble background in South Waziristan (SW), was an unknown figure till the killing of Naqibullah Mehsud in January 2018 at the hands of police squad led by SSP Rao Anwar. He initiated nonviolent movement under the name of Mehsud Tahafuz Movement demanding arrest of killers of Naqibullah. Once he gained prominence, guided by hidden hands he named the movement as Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) to gather sympathies of Pashtun community. He started wearing a red cap and was nicknamed Manzoor Pashteen. Other PTM members also made the red cap as part of their dress.
When he started receiving funds from foreign agencies, he organized big rallies in all seven agencies of FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and other cities of Pakistan to make his movement broad-based. With plentiful resources and backing, PTM organized meetings and poster campaigns in European countries.
PTM was allowed to take part in July 2018 elections with a view to mainstream it. Mohsin Dawar from North Waziristan (NW) and Ali Wazir from SW got elected for National Assembly from the platform of PTM. Tutored by RAW and NDS, the PTM leaders focused their attention on stoking Pashtun nationalism and spoiling the image of the Pakistan Army. This was necessitated in the wake of TTP having lost all their safe havens and terror infrastructure in FATA as a result of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, and combing operation of Raddul Fasaad to eliminate sleeping cells, facilitators and handlers of terrorists all over the country. Above all, the development of FATA and the merger of FATA into KP together with fencing of the western border gave a severe blow to the cross border terrorism supervised from Kabul to destabilize Pakistan.
India, Afghanistan and the US are unhappy that Pakistan military defeated terrorism and cleared FATA of all foreign paid terrorist groups and restored peace. PTM was launched as a political face of TTP with a view to washout the good work of the Pakistan Army and to discredit it in the eyes of people.
Manzoor Pashteen exploited the deprivations of people of FATA which had remained Ilaqa Ghair till its merger with KP and brought into the mainstream last year. He also started a whispering campaign and injected hatred against the army to pollute the minds of the Pashtuns.
Instead of condemning India for its mass human rights abuses against minorities in India and against the Kashmiris, or censuring the US-installed puppet regime in Kabul involved in killing Afghan Pashtuns, or reproving the TTP involved in bloodying the Pashtuns in FATA and in KP, Pashteen and other PTM leaders promoted foreign agenda by terming Pakistan Army as an occupying army involved in human rights violations and disrespecting women. Pashteen blamed the army for abducting the tribesmen, carrying out night raids into houses, mining built-up areas that are causing fatalities and injuries to the people, harassing the people and impeding movement with the help of check posts, etc. Pashtuns were projected as the victims of the Army’s tyranny.
Gulalai Ismail belonging to tribal area added juice to the propaganda war by spreading fake stories that soldiers were disturbing the sanctity of the women in the tribal belt. Since she was not checkmated, she managed to slip out and started spewing venom against Pak Army from Washington.
Encouraged by the big crowds they attracted in their public rallies, Pashteen and other PTM leaders including the elected MNAs put forward following demands and kept pressing the government to fulfill them irrespective of the fact that the overall security situation has yet not been fully stabilized:
- Release missing persons in FATA.
- Lift landmines.
- Remove military check posts.
- Make compensation for the losses in persons and material.
- Army to move out of FATA.
These demands were made in order to facilitate the re-entry of TTP.
From 2003 to 2016, FATA was profusely bled by foreign-sponsored proxies and drones. Hundreds of pro-Pakistan elders and religious figures were killed in Waziristan to create space for the TTP. Teenagers were brainwashed and made suicide bombers. Thousands died or got injured as a result of suicide attacks and IEDs.
All schools were vandalized and girls prohibited to receive an education. Each house in FATA and in Swat was bound to spare one young son to become a militant and one girl to get married to the militant. Abduction for ransom was common and the ones not falling in line were hanged to death. Peace committees of loyal tribesmen were attacked and members hacked to death. Millions of people of tribal belt left their homes and lived in camps.
During all those bloody years, where was Manzoor Pashteen? Why didn’t he raise his voice against TTP, drone war, or Fazlullah who had turned Swat into hell? Who provided protection to the people of FATA, army or PTM?
Pak Army restored order after sacrificing 7000 lives of officers and men and injuries to thousands. All displaced persons have been resettled and rehabilitated and former FATA now gives an altogether new look due to network of roads, bridges, dams, schools, colleges, cadet colleges, technical institutes, community centers, hospitals, housing complexes, sports grounds. Cricket matches, car races, and cultural programs have been held. CPEC and the construction of special economic zones will further benefit this region.
Manzoor Pashteen and nine others were arrested by the police on 27 January at Tehkal near Peshawar after a FiR had been registered by the police in Dera Ismail Khel (DIK) on 21 Jan on account of the inflammatory speech he delivered in a marriage hall in DIK on 18 January. He had planned another anti-Pakistan speech at a meeting in SW on 27 January for which he had received funds from his sponsors RAW and NDS and about which the intelligence agencies had gathered information. He had refused to pay heed to repeated counseling not to indulge in subversive and anti-state activities.
Pashteen was accompanied by nine members of PTM during his speech on 18 January, and MNA Ali Wazir elected from PTM ticket and Imran Mukhlis was also present. He stated that he doesn’t recognize Pakistan’s 1973 Constitution since it is against human rights. He fanned hatred between ethnic communities and passed threatening remarks against the government.
About 10 months ago, on account of PTM’s anti-Pakistan agenda, former DG ISPR in his press briefing had warned the PTM leadership that their time was up and asked them to explain their funding from abroad about which the army had gathered concrete evidence.
All the public meetings organized by PTM inside and outside the country were funded by anti-Pakistan foreign agencies. The majority of funds are received by the PTM from the Indian Consulates in Qandahar and Jalalabad.
RAW agents are working in Indian Embassy in Kabul and in the Indian Consulates in eastern and southern Afghanistan since 2002 who in concert with 14 Indian intelligence agencies, Afghan RAAM and NDS have been conducting a massive proxy war against Pakistan. Earlier on, they were funding and equipping TTP and its affiliates but after their ouster from FATA in 2016, PTM is being funded to do what TTP couldn’t do.
70% of funds are provided by RAW and 30% by NDS to PTM. Funds are sent through the underhand Hundi and Hawala system. Despite the availability of proofs and non-adherence to warnings, the authorities have been soft towards the PTM and refrained from arresting its leadership hoping that sooner than later they would come on the right track. Efforts were made to engage PTM leadership in talks and most of their demands had also been met, but the government’s softness and inaction were miscued as a sign of weakness. Lured by the big money, the PTM continued to indulge in anti-state activities.
Pashteen and his colleagues were sent to central jail in Peshawar by the court on a 14 days judicial remand. His lawyers promptly filed a petition for bail on the following day, which was rejected by the Peshawar Court. It issued instructions to shift the detainees to DIK jail for trial by DIK court under 5 sections of the penal code. These are sections 50B, 120D, 123A, 124A, 153A related to sedition, conspiracy, fanning hatred, condemning the creation of Pakistan and creating enmity between ethnic communities.
Sensing that Pashteen’s and his party’s nefarious activities would be fully exposed during the intended trial, his facilitators inside and outside the country sprang into action. Soon after his arrest, the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in his futile bid to gain popularity of the Pashtuns living on both sides of the Durand line kicked dust and condemned the police action. Pak Foreign Office promptly rejected his diatribe and termed it as interference in internal affairs. On the following day, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai feeling left out and discarded added fuel to the Pashtun nationalism by demanding the immediate release of Pashteen. Ironically, the two Afghan leaders having played a lead role in the destruction of Afghanistan have never uttered a word of protest or sympathy over the daily killings of Afghan Pashtuns on account of ruthless aerial bombardment of occupying forces and their collaborators.
Reportedly. RAW-NDS have jointly prepared a strategy to exploit the arrest of Pashteen and to raise a storm all over the world. Separate funds have been allocated for the propaganda and diplomatic offensive to once again spoil the image of Pakistan. The phase one of the plans envisages staging protests in front of the Pakistan Embassy in Washington and Pak Consulate in New York. In the next phase, the scope would be enlarged by organizing protest rallies in front of the UN building and Pak Embassies/Consulates in Australia, UK, France, Germany, and other European capital cities.
On 28 January, a handful of Afghans, mostly on the payroll of NDS together with runaway TTP elements organized a protest in Kunar and Khost. Afghan Parliament member Maryum Suleman led the so-called protest.
Amnesty International South Asia which has closed its eyes and ears with regard to inhuman barbarities committed by Indian forces against the locked up 8 million Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir since 5 August 2019, and Indian Police savagery against Indian citizens including students protesting discriminatory Citizenship Act has woken up from its slumber and given its reaction by demanding immediate and unconditional release of Pashteen and his colleagues and has asked Pakistan to provide the right of freedom of speech and movement. It didn’t clarify as to which country in the world tolerates hate-filled anti-state speeches!
In Pakistan, Mohsin Dawar and others tried to disturb law and order in Peshawar on 27 January. ANP leaders Afrasyab Khattak, his son, Bushra Gohar, and MNA Ali Wazir were also present. Mohsin Dawar and some others were arrested and jailed, while ANP leaders and Ali Wazir were spared. The two PTM MNAs Mohsin and Wazir had been arrested sometime back because of their involvement in the attack on a military check post in North Waziristan but after detaining them for few weeks were released. Ali Wazir is presently active in social media and involved in a disinformation campaign to malign the government and the army.
ANP head Asfandyar, NP head Hasil Bizinjo and PkMAP head Mehmood Achakzai have also expressed their concern over the arrest of Pashteen. Remnants of TTP terrorists backed by RAW and NDS are still hiding in Baluchistan and KP and carry out acts of terror whenever an opportunity comes their way.
India is hoping to dilute the increasing world pressure over its gross human rights violations against Indian minorities and Kashmiris by drumming up Pashteen’s arrest and making it a human rights issue and distracting the world’s attention from India to Pakistan. A long rope was given to Manzoor Pashteen and his constant anti-Pakistan activities were ignored for long. The government must remain steadfast in dealing with the PTM playing into the hands of enemies of Pakistan and trying to roll back all the achievements made by the army. Indo-Afghan propaganda must be firmly resisted.