There is a massive protest going on in a South Asian country and it is not being reported by the Indian media, at all. The concern is genuine as the protesters represent more than 3 crore of the minority population of Pakistan. It is difficult to imagine the reason for this neglect by the mainstream media houses of our country that generally never let the voice of minorities go unheard. From the Tamils of Sri Lanka to the Rohingyas of Myanmar, the media houses have it all covered. Then why this neglect for the Pashtun protests of Pakistan? Is it because the India-shaming, Pakistan-loving media houses do not want to lend their portals to a Sunni Islam majority Pashtun population which is under fire from the Sunni Islam dominated Pakistan.
The Pashtuns reside in the border areas of Pakistan in an area divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan which is commonly termed as Pashtunistan. The majority of the Pashtun community in Pakistan is located in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. There is also a significant presence of Pashtuns in the cities of Sindh and certain regions of Punjab. Together, these Pashtuns constitute the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan.
Despite being adherents of the predominant Sunni Islam, as well as being active in the Pakistani military and government services, the Pashtun population has faced persecution and neglect in recent decades. The extrajudicial killings, racial profiling, violence and firing of innocent women and children and the illegal captivity of the young Pashtuns has been happening for the past few years on a grand scale by the Pakistan Army. Landmines planted in civilian areas are unheard of even in war zones but they are abundantly found in the Pashtun tribal areas of Waziristan, a ghastly nightmare for the women and children.
Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) is a social movement for the protection of human rights of the Pashtun people. The first protest march by the PTM was organized on January 26th, 2018 to protest the murder of a shopkeeper, Naqeebullah Mehsud and the alleged state oppression on the entire Pakistani population. After Mehsud was shot dead by Pakistan police in Karachi, the PTM sit-in demanded fair investigations into the murder of Mehsud and to produce the missing Pashtun youth to the court. These missing Pashtun youths were picked up by the police and were kept in undisclosed locations for long periods. The police did not even bother to inform the family members about whether their missing young ones were alive or dead. The protesters also demanded the removal of landmines from the tribal areas which led to the death of more than 35 people including children in South Waziristan alone.
The next gathering of PTM was held in Peshawar on April 8th 2018. It was attended by more than sixty thousand people, mostly Pashtuns and some other groups who demanded minority rights. The main concerns raised by the PTM in the gathering were abolition of the Frontier Crimes Regulation in FATA, release of missing persons and an end to the humiliation of the tribal people at the various checkpoints. The harassment of Pashtun families carried out under the pretext of search operations, removal of landmines and release of all political prisoners were also widely raised.
Each protest has a couple of things in common- they were attended by large number of rattled and concerned people, and both of these went almost unreported by the Pakistan media. While it is obvious as to why the Army-fearing Pakistan media did not report these rallies, it is nonetheless surprising as to why the Indian media let the matter go unreported. Why did the chest thumping, self-appointed protectors of the abused minorities not lift an eyebrow when atrocities of unimaginable magnitude were being committed. Silence in the left-leaning Indian media reeks of selective outrage.
The close ties India has with Pashtuns or Pathans as they are usually known in India is not a new topic. The Indo-Afghan friendship ties are still going strong and will continue to do so. “Kabuliwala” is a story every Indian child has heard and Abdul Gaffar Khan, “Frontier Gandhi”, is a name which every student of Indian history remembers. It is therefore our duty to raise our voices for the injustice being meted out to our Pashtun brothers in the Pakistani heartland. The Indian media should be ashamed for not covering the protests, the latest one of which was held in Pakistan’s Lahore just yesterday.