There has been a storm that has been brewing long in our neighborhood which no Indian media seem to be covering. This is the storm which is sending Pakistan’s armed forces into a tizzy and they do not seem to have any idea on how to contain it. It is really strange that none of the Indian media houses have been reporting on it, I am not sure whether it is by design or by sheer ignorance.
The guy who seems to be at the center of the storm is Manzoor Pashteen. This 26-year-old guy has been causing headache to Pakistan’s army lately and spearheads the storm called PTM (Pashtun Tahafuz Movement). He is a human rights activist who has been fighting to be the voice of many tribals from various parts of FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Areas), especially Waziristan.
FATA has always been in the news as it has consistently been the target of Operation Khyber by Pak Army. These ongoing operations in the region have caused Manzoor to be displaced four times. Sensing the damage done to the region, he started with forming a group which was mainly focused on clearing the landmines. This young guy who is a doctor in veterinary sciences has since then, focused on highlighting the plight of his people and atrocities committed by the Army.
The Pakistani Army which boasts of being one of the best professional armies has been terrified with the slogan which was coined by his movement, which is “Yeh Jo Dehshatgardi Hai, Iske Peeche Vardi (Pak Army) Hai”. His non-violent movement has gained him millions of followers who have started to equate him with Gandhi and his freedom struggle (better add Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and his movement Khudai Khidmatgar too.). All he has been demanding is to have judicial inquiries of the alleged murders of Pashtun people in the name of the security operation. One of those killings has been of Pashtun shopkeeper Naqueebullah Mehsud who is believed to be killed by Karachi Police forces, alleging state oppression
What really has been a problem for the Pak Army is that the attention he has gathered among the people and his connection with the masses. His gatherings have been seeing a consistent crowd of over sixty thousand people who have been very responsive towards the speeches made by Manzoor. The Pak govt. tried to curtail his movements by canceling his air tickets recently while he was traveling from Islamabad to Karachi, thinking they would be able to contain him but this turned out to be a disastrous move for the Army. Refusing to be intimidated, Manzoor decided to travel by road which resulted in the snowball effect for his movement. Thousands of his supporters patiently waited for him and greeted him with a roaring applaud when he finally arrived.
Wearing his distinctive red and black hat, when he held the microphone to speak, the crowd spontaneously erupted by chanting “Yeh Jo Dehshatgardi Hai, Iske Peeche Vardi) Hai”. Tribals make up-to 15% of the total population in Pakistan and if their protest wasn’t enough, other forces which have been feeling equally disgruntled by the Pak army like Balochs and Mujahirs have shown their solidarity with Manzoor and his demands. Such is the anger against the army, that the protest even witnessed pro-Israel slogans in the gathering, claiming that the IDF protects their citizens while the Pak Army kills its own people.
These events have really touched the raw nerve of the Pak Army which is already dealing a serious credibility crisis with the ex-Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif admitting the nation’s role in Mumbai Attack against India. By any standards, this could be the biggest crisis they would have faced. The Army which is accused of interfering in the democratic process of a country which has never seen a full term of an elected government will eventually have to deal with this in a very tactical way or they would be giving more credibility to the slogan “Yeh Jo Dehshatgardi Hai, Iske Peeche Vardi (Pak Army) Hai”.
Writer Manas Rawat – Alumni of Victoria University, works in the field of IT Risk Analysis and operations and interested in Indian History and security. you can follow his tweets at @manasdoon