Pakhtunkhwa Times

Challenges Faced By The Pakhtoons By: Dr.Adalat Khan

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 11, 2009

Wed, 04-Feb-2009

Pashtun Youth are protesting on London streets against raising voilence in Swat Valley.

In the history of nations there comes a time when either they have to wake up and carve a better destiny for themselves or lose their very existence. Today the Pukhtun nation has reached such a stage where it faces enormous challenges and risk being annihilated. Continued violence with the resultant deaths of many innocent people, extremely fragile law and order situation, disunity and many other difficulties are faced by us. Let us reflect and examine what are the key challenges faced by the Pakhtuns and what remedial steps are needed to meet them.

-The terrorism and extremism label: Both the international as well as the national media has painted such a distorted picture of Pakhtuns that the minute you tell someone you are a Pukhtun, Pashtoon, or Pathan they visualize you as a terrorist, extremist, Taliban or pro-Taliban or some type of other irrational person who is bent on destroying humanity. Of course this label is equally used for Muslims at large but specifically for Pakhtuns on both sides of the Durand line these terms have become synonymous with our race and nation. Granted there are some bigots in Pakhtuns who have brought havoc not only on others but also on their own people. But then which race and nation do not have the same type of misguided elements? Ku Klux Klan and the Neocon in the US, global Jewish superamists , RSS in India and Western Evangelists all preach hatred and intolerance but none of them has been given the same labels by the media pundits as the Pakhtuns. The reasons being that these groups are extremely organized and do not allow anyone to point fingers at them. For example anyone calling a Jewish extremist even though they kill innocent people, destroy homes and illegally occupy others’ lands will be branded as anti-semite. Why must Pukhtun allow its nation to be misrepresented and given bad names?

– Disunity: The only thing over which Pakhtuns are united is to be dis-united and this is our biggest weakness. At their zenith of unity they were the master of the world and were ruling others but when they started fighting one another they lost everything they had including their power, land, and overall dignity. It makes people think why the born fighters people who ruled others are now being ruled by others including some illiterate band of people who in the name of Islam are taking their liberty. Where is the tradition of cooperation and unity to get rid of these evil forces who has brought dis-unity and bloodshed to our land. Pakhtuns need unity and unison of thoughts desperately at this juncture of time to consolidate into a true Nation. Disunity is the old disease with which the Pakhtuns have been suffering. Moguls, British and all adversaries of Pakhtuns exploited this weakness. Unite we must else we wish to perish from the face of the earth.

– Illiteracy: “Seeking knowledge is an obligation ” the advice put forward more than fourteen hundred years ago by the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him ) has profound application for today’s Pukhtuns too who face enormous challenges. One of the greatest challenges faced by all nations today is to keep pace with the rapid changes taking place in the world. These changes require every one in the world to continuously update their knowledge and skills. In fact the nation as a whole should develop strategies which encourage everyone to learn new knowledge, upgrade their skills and acquire better attitudes. Why Japanese are the economic giants of the world despite the fact that they do not have any natural resources? The answer is their passion for knowledge and Human Resources development. To gain our past glory, to help our selves and positively contribute towards humanity we must acquire contemporary knowledge and get rid of the curse of illiteracy which is one of the biggest challenges faced by us. Along with the mastery of the guns we must acquire the mastery of the pen.

– Globalisation: Globalisation is storming the whole world and all less developed people are in danger of losing their culture. This also applies to Pakhtuns. It can be defined as the increasing interconnectedness of people and places as a result of advances in transport, communication, and information technologies that cause political, economic, and cultural convergence. Pakhtuns risks losing its culture not only because of globalisation but occupying powers see our culture as the only obstacle to subdue us. Across the Durand line the Americans and Nato forces are not only engaged in defeating the so called terrorism or Taliban but they are also actively promoting the Western culture, Christianity, and Westernization. What can the Pakhtuns do to be a respectable global citizen? Sadly the answer is nothing at this moment? However sitting idle and doing nothing is not an answer. Pakhtuns while maintaining the good traits of its culture and faith must acquire new traits and skills to be able to effectively compete with other advanced nations. Instead of serving as a security guard or shoe shiners in our own country and foreign lands Pakhtuns must be able to lead and manage businesses and people and be able to perform other tasks which are generally respected.

Every race, nation, and people face tough times and those who are intelligent and brave emerge of out of them as winners. Today the Pakhtuns too face enormous difficulties and challenges. The unjustifiable label of extremism and terrorism, disunity and lack of good leadership, bombing of its people and inability to be global citizens are some of the challenges faced by Pakhtuns. Self defeating traditions such as internal enmities with its fellow Pakhtuns, superstitions, and close-mindedness also keep us backward. By confronting these evils Pakhtuns must write a better destiny for themselves and their coming generation. I am sure in the past too Pakhtuns have weathered various storms and by sheer unity, acquisition of modern knowledge and fast action Pakhtuns can not only help themselves but can positively contribute to the welfare of its countrymen, its neighbours and the human race at large. When is the time to do this? The time is NOW!!!

Dr Adalat Khan is a senior coloumnist based in Malaysia. He can be reached at dradalat@gmail.com

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No Space For Art In "Taliban State" Dr. Ashraf Ali

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 11, 2009

Tue, 03-Feb-2009

Humayun Sakhi, popular Rabab player, now resides in the United States. National Geogrphic Photo

With an artificial smile on his face, the heavy hearted Alamzeb Mujahid, announced his ‘pre-mature retirement’ from the ‘world of art’ at a hurriedly arranged press conference in Peshawar’s Press Club immediately after the popular comic figure got released from his captors.

“Today I say good bye to the world of art and I will no more be appearing on the television screen in future”, remarked Alamzeb Mujahid, adding ‘I will soon join Tablighi Jamat to find salvation in the world hereafter”.

Mujahid 39, the evergreen drama artist himself became a drama when he was picked up by unknown armed men for ransom a few days ago from the posh area of Peshawar. Mujahid’s abduction proved as a blessing in disguise. The actor’s release from his abductees also secured him a release from the artificial life he has been leading as an actor for the last more than a decade. The famous comedian once said, “I regret being raised as an actor. I gave the precious moments of my life to an actor but in return the actor could give me nothing”.

Media reports said the actor had sensed the situation after he received threatening calls from unknown quarters. His relatives said he was all set to shift his family to Nowshera, but the kidnappers didn’t allow him and he was picked up before the idea could be materialized.

Though Mujahid is back home but the message from the Jihadis is clear. “Artists are no exception”.

The news of Mujahid’s abduction fell more heavy on the artists’ community which had not yet recovered from the shock of their fellow colleague, Arshad Hussain who went missing a couple of months ago and got recovered only after his family struck a deal with his captors. The mental trauma Hussain went through all this while, has badly affected his health. Hussain says he has lost almost eight kgs of his weight and partly his mental balance. The young and educated actor from Mardan, who is roaming around office to office now, seems to be tired. “I don’t think, this country has now any accommodation for artists”. “We have to make our way somewhere else”.

Haroon Bacha was lucky to make his way. Bacha, whose popular album “Awal ba kala kala Gham woo” – which earned him a worldwide fame, finally came to his rescue. Finding the situation stifling, the famous folk singer, got settled in the United States of America before this melodious voice could be silenced. Gulzar Alam moved the other way. Alam who rose to prominence for his famous revolutionary song “Rawakhle Bya Da Inqilab Sra Nishanoona”, sought to take refuge behind the beard, but it didn’t work. The continuous threatening calls from unknown quarters made the versatile singer silently kept all the “symbols of revolution” back into the corner and parted ways with his profession. Like his senior fellow Gulzar Alam, the new arrival in the field, Sardar Yousufzai was also lucky to escape assassination bid on his life, however the young singer could not help his bleeding four fellows who met their deaths after the militants showered bullets on their vain on the main Mingora road leading to Mardan.

The phenomenon of targeting singers, artists and musicians is not new. North West Frontier Province started shrinking on them during the last government of the Muttahida Majlas-e-Amal (MMA) when it launched a campaign against ‘Anti-Islamic’ activities in Peshawar’s Dabgari garden, a hub of musical activities. Following a ban on cultural activities and especially musical concerts by the government of the MMA – a conglomerate of six religio-political parties, the musicians were left with no other option but to flee the city and settle in other parts of the country for their livelihood. The entertainment-starved Peshawarites were deprived of the only recreational opportunity when the lone Nishtar hall was closed for hosting stage dramas, musical concerts and other cultural activities. Some of the artists and musicians said good bye to the profession and opted for alternative businesses while the rest got involved in the Cd drama production. However the rising attacks on CD and video shops made the shopkeepers down their shutters causing a great blow to the business. A considerable decline in the production made the artists leave the field open for the militants to flood the market with their own brand of Jihadi CDs which offers more attraction for its target

audience and especially young lot. “Why not one watch the top ten suicides bomb attacks of the year instead of the top ten bollywood and lollywood songs”, replied Ghulam Ahmad 17, at a shop in Karkhano Market, who was here to buy a Jihadi CD.

Cinema houses throughout the province are already giving a deserted look. So is the case with wedding halls and community centers where no one could dare to host a musical concert. In a latest move, the bus drivers have started removing audio and video players from their vehicles after the militants threatened of committing suicide attacks

on those passenger carriers which would play music or movies for the passengers. In a letter addressed to the transport workers in Mardan, the NWFP Chief Minister’s home town, the Taliban complained that buses offering such kind of entertainment were responsible for spreading ‘vulgarity and obscenity” and that it was a ‘source of mental agony for pious people’. This is a wake up call.

Shattered Dreams! By: Rahmanullah

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 11, 2009

Shattered Dreams!
Rahmanullah
Mon, 09-Feb-2009

Leaving for an un-known destination. Photo by BBC English

The scenic valley of Swat, where snow-capped mountains stood as symbols of the dignity and peaceful nature of Swati people now torn apart by a voilent conflict. It has been in flames since October, 2007 and the conflict between Taliban militants and Pakistan security forces has displaced 0.5 million people from their homes.

With schools destroyed, homes bombed and bridges exploded Swat has little to offer to the people who have been living their for the last so many centuries.

Due to the last few days shelling by security forces in Charbagh, Hazara, Manglawar and Dherai areas thousands of people were forced to spent the chilling nights of winter along the bank of river swat.

The same river swat that once blessed the locals with its everlasting beauty and freshness, has now become the only place where local population take refuge from Taliban onslaughts and shelling from the military helicopters.

With tears rolling down his cheeks, Shaukat Khan, an internally displaced person says No one is coming to our rescue. The government is indifferent and for the military we are not less than Taliban militants.

Many Swatis live from upper Swat valley are now living either with their relatives in Mingora town or in government buildings.

The authorities claim that they have established seven camps for the internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mingora.

The dwellers of these camps belong to Kubal, Koza Bandi, Bara Bandi, Charbagh areas of Swat where military operation (Rah-i-Haq) has entered in its 3rd phase. These people complain that lengthy spells of curfew have destroyed their lives and thousands of people are still stranded in the upper mountanious regions due to the curfew.

A 70-year-old Bakht Bibi cannot stand and move without a support, she says:”Life has become heavy burden for her.” “I told my grandsons to leave me at home alone. I want to die in my house where I spent the days of my youth,”.

Almost everyone in the camp has his own ordeal of grief and helplessness.The children are wearing a grim smile on their faded cheeks. They can not play and they can not attend their schools as Taliban have already destroyed 200 schools in the valley.

The Awami National party led government in the province is suffering from lack of strategy and vision to handle this crisis.

The federal government is committed to its so-called war against terror, and the UN and INGOs can not afford to enter into the region to help these people due to risks of Taliban attacks.

Thousands of children and women are now at the mercy of Almighty God. They can just pray and weep!

In a recent broadcast Maulana Fazlullah, the militant commander said that his militants would continue to fight against the security forces till Shairah was enforced in Malakand region.

The military says it will continue to bomb Taliban hideouts till the writ of the government is restored.

But for the people, they just want their homes back. Will anyone listen to their demand?

Rahmanullah is Peshawar based journalist and a member of Pashtunpost’s editorial board. He can be reached at rahmanjournalist@gmail.com

Militancy In Swat : Myths And Realities By: Talimand Khan

Posted in 1 by ppfcanada on February 11, 2009

Tue, 10-Feb-2009

Education is the main casualty in the conflict between The militants and the military.Photo by Niaz

Why has the security apparatus failed to cut the militants’ supply lines; how come random journalists can talk to Fazlullah but security forces are unable to track him down; and if the state’s helplessness is genuine, how was the administration able to successfully hold general elections in Swat?

Swat, the paradisal valley that once attracted throngs of tourists, has been devastated by the insurgency that gained momentum in 2007.

The military has already conducted two concerted drives to root out extremist elements, and is now in the midst of a third. Each time, natives were told that this would be the last operation. Yet the extremists return and so does the military. Civilians then face the brutalities of the militants on the one hand and collateral damage on the other.

The people of Swat have never been extremist in their outlook towards religion. Even today, as evidenced by surveys, virtually the entire population of the valley abhors the militants.

That said, there is an extremely dangerous sentiment that is setting in among the people: anger and resentment at the state security apparatus’ inability to tame the militancy. Indeed, increasingly, the people of Swat are finding holes the state’s explanations of why this is so, and are growing alienated from the army. This is the real problem, whose repercussions could be dire in the long run.

Let us view the situation from the perspective of the Swati people. There are three popular explanations provided for the Swat insurgency.

First, that a legal vacuum prevailing due to a dysfunctional judicial system allowed the Taliban to step in, with the people remaining indifferent. Proponents of this view argue that after the merger of Swat district with Pakistan proper and the imposition of the PATA regulation, a legal vacuum was created which disappointed the people who were used to the quick justice of the Wali era.

This argument is correct in that the natives were not satisfied with having Swat, a relatively more developed and civilised part of the country, relegated to a status equivalent to the underdeveloped Dir and Malakand areas through the notorious PATA regulation. However, there was never any serious debate on moving towards an Islamic system — sharia — let alone one that is as narrow and harsh as that of the Taliban.

The second, more mainstream, argument is that extremist elements — read Sufi Muhammad and Maulvi Fazlullah — had considerable leverage with the locals and thus managed to facilitate their insurgency. In reality, Sufi Muhammad was neither indigenous nor was he brought to prominence by local actors. Rather, as Major Amir (retd), then DG IB, said on record, Sufi Muhammad’s Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) was organised thanks to subtle manipulation by the local administration of the erstwhile Malakand Division as well as by elements from the agencies. The objective was very limited: the then administration of Malakand wanted to regain the power that it enjoyed under PATA, an arrangement that had been dismantled through a Supreme Court order.

Similarly, Maulvi Fazlullah initiated his activities from an extremely small establishment. He was banished from his neighbourhood mosque due to his extremist views on jihad; locals also pleaded with the police to stop his radio transmissions.

However, the local government, in a meeting with the jirga, of which this author was a part, flatly expressed its inability to do so given that communications was a federal subject! Then, despite repeated requests from the locals and editorials in the country’s liberal newspapers, the establishment continued to ignore Fazlullah as he went on a rampage across the valley with his pro-jihad message.

The third and final argument is that the militancy in Swat is a reaction to the American-led occupation of Afghanistan. Again, facts do not back this position. There has hardly ever been any Swati presence in jihadi organisations, be they oriented towards Afghanistan or India. Swat is not known as a place where ultra-right sentiment flourishes. In fact, among Pakhtuns, Swatis are known to be a more materially driven people.

Further, before the non-Pakhtun presence was witnessed within the militant enclave in Swat recently, the area was never seen as a sanctuary for Afghanistan-linked militants. In fact, even Fazlullah, apart from his modestly-sized band of militants, has been unable to recruit natives to join his cause. In short, while resentment against the ‘American agenda’ grows, it is no worse than in the rest of the country.

As none of the societal arguments hold for the Swat insurgency, Swatis are wondering whether the state argument, i.e. the state has not been sincere in its efforts, is more realistic.

Swatis ask why Sufi Muhammad was not kept in check by those who facilitated his rise; why was Fazlullah not tackled when he had been condemned by his society and was running a lone propaganda project; why did the intelligence agencies fail to predict Fazlullah’s behaviour and movement; why, even at a later stage, did the state not take notice of the public burning of CD shops and TVs (the same led to a major offensive by the state in Islamabad)?

Further, why has the security apparatus failed to cut the militants’ supply lines; how come random journalists can talk to Fazlullah but security forces are unable to track him down; and if the state’s helplessness is genuine, how was the administration able to successfully hold general elections in Swat?

The above is not to point fingers at the state. Rather, it is to highlight the questions facing the embattled people of Swat. They remain unsure about their state’s sincerity in fulfilling its social contract with the people. This is an extremely dangerous trend which, if not tackled, could further alienate the people from the state. It is high time that the state rethinks its security paradigm and become more open in its communications with the people. It should clear up the contradictory picture that is forming in the people’s minds.

Talimand Khan is currently based at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute in Islamabad and is a native of Swat. He can be reached at talimand@sdpi.org