KARACHI: Declaring the calls from members of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) for the presence of the United Nations in its talks with the government as tantamount to “calls for intervention,” independent analysts have urged leaders of the Pashtun rights movement to stick to their original genuine demands while avoiding slogans against state institutions.
The PTM, which shot to fame after Mehsud Jirga in Karachi for Naqeeb Mehsud, has held several successful public gatherings in Peshawar, Lahore and Swat, where most of the attendees happen to be youth and relatives of the missing persons.
The PTM members, briefing the media about initial discussions held on Wednesday at the residence of tribal elder Al-Hajj Shah Jee Gul, called for the presence of international guarantors, particularly the UN, during the talks.
Sana Ejaz, a member of PTM, reiterated that talks must be held in the presence of “international guarantors.” The UN in particular could be a guarantor, she said, given that Pakistan has signed a number of UN treaties and the global body is also responsible for protecting human rights around the world.
However, such calls are not welcomed by many in Pakistan.
“Talking of UN guarantees amounts to asking for a UN intervention. Either PTM leaders don’t understand what they are talking about or it is part of the old campaign to involve the international community in Pak domestic affairs,” said Imtiaz Gul, senior analyst and author.
The Islamabad-based analyst believes that “Manzoor Pashteen’s inciting rhetoric against the military reflects that he might be used by foreign hands, or internal anti-state elements.
“They should also question Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Mehmood Khan Achakzai for putting FATA reforms -– one of the PTM’s demands -– on hold.”
Our first reaction to this type of activism must not be to call them traitors and push all of them against the walls, said Ahmed Quraishi, a talk show host and analyst. “Remember that the majority of them are rallying around legitimate grievances that can be discussed. Our concern should be focused on those elements that want to hijack those demands for anti-state objectives,” Quraishi said.
After the Swat rally held on Sunday, the next destination of the PTM is Karachi, where it has planned to hold a public gathering on May 12, a day when dozens of people, mostly from the Pashtun ethnic community, were murdered to stop them from receiving the then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, back in 2007.
Awami National Party (ANP), the Pashtun nationalist party, observes the May 12 event every year. The party is trying to persuade the PTM to hold its gathering on another day but if the Manzoor Pashteen-led group insist, the ANP will postpone.
Younus Bunairi, the ANP Sindh general secretary, admitted his party will give the PTM a space on May 12 on its insistence due to its popularity among Pashtun youth but he doubts if the group will ever become a true political force.
“The demands of PTM are genuine and need to be resolved. We endorse their basic demands but it should not go to another extreme level,” Bunairi told Arab News. “Most of the political parties, including the PTI, which were part of the Karachi Mehsud Jirga, have distanced themselves.”
Bunairi says since the security establishment has agreed to fulfill most of the demands, this will halt the growth of PTM. “The group is comprised of enthusiastic youths. Hardly any mature person has joined it,” he said, adding the group and its growing demands will lose their charm.
Zia Ur Rehman, a Karachi-based journalist who covers social movements, said that though the PTM has successfully been able to spread its message through public rallies and the social media, the sustainability and future of the campaign is questionable.
“At this stage, the PTM has been attracting educated youth and ordinary people who have been affected by the military operations in the country’s tribal areas, but to sustain the movement for longer, it is imperative that its leaders organize the group and bring serious leadership to the decision-making body, refrain from using provocative language against state institutions and stick to their five key demands,” he said.
Elections are very different from social campaigns and it would be hard for the PTM to gain significant results on the electoral front, the Karachi-based analyst said.
“In Pakistan, elections need wealth, tribal strength and plant-level structure of a political party, and the PTM draws its support mainly from middle-class youth and the poor strata of society,” Rehman said. Also, he added, most of the PTM supporters are from two Pashtun ethnic parties -– Awami National Party and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party — and on the electoral front, they are likely to support their own political parties.