Is PTM an ‘engineered protest’?
by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur on 20 Apr 2018 2 Comments

A statement from the Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on April 12 that “engineered protests” would not be allowed to reverse the gains of counterterrorism operations and cautioned the nation against forgetting the sacrifices of “real heroes”. He, without naming the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), blamed it as something which was not indigenous but was being supported and guided by the usual suspects they have been accusing of guiding and supporting the Baloch (and the Bengalis in the past) for protesting against the injustices and the state terror being perpetrated against them.


The Baloch have been always labelled as agents of India and Afghanistan, though the injustices that they protest against are perpetrated by those who label them such. Oddly, often times these crimes of disappearances and mutilated bodies of Baloch people have been imputed against India and others.


Interestingly, on 19 December, 2016, in the session of the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control, the Senate panel’s chairman, Rehman Malik (former Interior Minister), said he knew that the uniforms of law enforcement agencies were being used by RAW operatives, who abduct and kidnap people in Balochistan in order to bring a bad name to the forces and destabilize Pakistan. “It is no more a secret that RAW is actively working in Balochistan to incite sectarian and ethnic violence to replicate an East Pakistan-like situation,” he claimed.


So what can one say about the efficiency of their intelligence agencies or their blatant lies when they put the blame of all their evil work on others and proclaim their innocence.


But this is not the only instance that this preposterous excuse has been used to cover up their crimes. In May 2012, during a hearing by the Supreme Court on the issue of missing persons in Balochistan, a CCTV video of Frontier Corps personnel abducting a Baloch youth was shown to then Inspector General Frontier Corps, Major General Obaidullah Khan, who was dismissed for corruption in April 2016. Despite this irrefutable evidence the then IGFC denied the charge, saying that there existed the possibility that FC uniforms were being misused by unknown people.


They lie unashamedly to put the blame on RAW and others and expect people will believe them. They have maligned the Baloch so long and so often that many believe their version of events, and now they have started this maligning campaign against the PTM and hope that people will overlook the injustices that the PTM is protesting against and start accusing them of being an ‘engineered movement’.


Mama Abdul Qadeer Baloch and Farzana Majeed, with half a dozen Baloch women, 10-year-old Ali Haider, nine-year-old Beauragh Baloch, son of Mir Jalil Rekei, and four young men of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons Long March, walked braving cold and rain from Quetta to Karachi and then from Karachi to Islamabad in 106 days. They faced threats and hardships of not knowing where they would be spending the night, were accused of being agents of RAW and being funded by it. I had the honour of being with them for 26 days during this historic March.


Mama Qadeer refused to accept any donation from even the most ardent supporters and those who wanted to show support and goodwill. He didn’t want it to be tainted by allegations that it was an exercise in making money. But this did not stop the state and its supporters to allege that this was an ‘engineered protest’.


On March 1, 2014, the day the march ended in Islamabad, Air Vice Marshal Shehzad Chaudhry, quite blatantly lied on Capital TV program when he said that Mama Abdul Qadeer, the leader of the VBMP Long March, has a Thuraya satellite phone and that he wouldn’t be surprised if there were there three or four Land Cruisers with them. To put the record straight, Mama had a cheap Nokia phone and the only vehicle accompanying the marchers was an ambulance provided by the Edhi Foundation.


The TV One channel ran a ticker that Rs 2 million were being given to the marchers daily and that food for them came from five-star hotels. The fact was that the marchers ate whatever food was available from wayside hotels and quite a few times, in Sindh as well as Punjab, the owners refused to accept money for the food or tea taken.


The core group of marchers numbering 16 was housed for the night by different individuals who were friends of supporters and provided whatever dinner and breakfast they could manage. These individuals had to face harassment of the intelligence agencies for playing host to the marchers. Aslam Verraich, an artist and political activist, played host to them at his residence in Wazirabad for six nights. Mama Qadeer and other marchers stayed with me and my friends for six nights in Sindh.


The supposedly informed analysts and some TV channels lied unashamedly to malign the march and its participants because this march had taken the battle to the establishment’s heartland. The PTM has moved the Pashtun protest from the hinterlands of FATA to the establishment’s heartland and that is what is causing concern in all quarters of the establishment.


The maligning campaign against the PTM has just begun; we weren’t surprised when they maligned us because we knew that this is what they had done when Bengalis wanted their rights and protested against the establishment and elite of West Pakistan, which denied them their rights. Here, either you accept the injustices quietly without a murmur or be ready to face a vicious maligning campaign. The more potent your protest is, the more vicious and vociferous will their propaganda be, so the PTM will face even more viciousness and suppression now that the Army Chief has spoken against them.


This tirade should be considered as accolade for it means that the PTM is denting the narrative that has long been fed to people - that it is the Pashtun who are to blame while the Army and State are innocent. The PTM has challenged and changed the narrative and that is why it is being challenged and will be challenged even more viciously by the State in coming days and they should be prepared to face whatever is thrown at them, for without braving the odds, victories are hard to achieve.


A word of advice from this old man to Manzoor Pashteen and all the supporters of the PTM, who mostly seem to be young like Manzoor Pashteen himself: this will be a long struggle, so do not expect quick unhindered victory or daily victories for, as they say, the party has just begun. You should always keep in mind what Friedrich Nietzsche said is the defining quality of great men: “It is not the strength but the duration of great sentiments that makes great men”.  To put this in a practical perspective, take the example of South Africa and its Apartheid and its opponents. There must have been many who intensely hated Apartheid and there must have been many who struggled hard, but lost heart after a few years, a decade. However, it was Madiba Nelson Mandela who refused to give up despite 27 years of incarceration and it is he who eventually defeated the Apartheid.


You, my dear friends, will have to be steadfast, consistent and persistent if you want to win. The Baloch have been struggling since March 27, 1948 and will continue their struggle. Victories which change fates of Nations come at a much higher price than the price exacted by other struggles.


My respected father very often used to quote a couplet which saw me through a lot of difficult and desperate times in my life. Maybe it would be of some utility to those of PTM who struggle for their rights.


Insaan nahin woh jo darr jaaye, iss daur kay khooni manzar say

Jis haal main jeena mushkil ho, uss haal main jeena lazim hai


Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur ranks among the few who raise the issue of “missing people” or victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan

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