These days Pakhtun women and elderly men carrying heavy loads on their backs and the beautiful bewildered children of the Pakhtuns looking into the prying eye of television cameras leaving their mud huts behind while fleeing violence-stricken areas is a common sight on our television screens. The forlorn look on the face of a child riding the back of a fleeing elder brings tears to one’s eyes. But does anyone really care?
The one and only question that comes to mind is whether this madness will ever end. The devastated Pakhtuns living on both sides of the international border between Pakistan and Afghanistan want peace after being mauled by violence over the recent years and the past decades, respectively.
The reason for the Pakhtuns not having achieved a standard of progress at large that their personal and collective traits had warranted is not entirely their fault. The Pakhtuns have found themselves in the violent cross hairs of history in such a manner that they have been mauled by the interests of the superpowers of various eras. The first, second and third Afghan wars were fought when Afghanistan found itself in the role of a buffer state between the Russian Empire and British India. In the 70s and the 80s it was the quest for reaching the warm waters of the Arabian Sea that brought the then mighty army of the erstwhile USSR to Afghanistan only to be militarily humiliated but at a huge cost to the Pakhtuns in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Pakhtuns on the Pakistani side were badly hit because of the three million refugees who came to NWFP almost overnight. The social fabric changed instantly. Crime increased and the Kalashnikov-cum-drug culture began to raise its ugly head. Heroin and Kalashnikov were unheard of in Pakistan before the USSR invasion of Afghanistan.
Post-9/11 Afghan invasion once again brought miseries to the Pakhtuns. The events are too well-known to be repeated. What needs to be said is that ever since 2003 or so the war in Afghanistan has spilled into Pakistan and has taken the Pakhtuns of Pakistan to a new level of devastation, violence, deprivations and sufferings. From South Waziristan to the serene valleys of Swat and to every nook and corner of the proud land of the Pakhtuns, whether tribal agencies or the settled districts, not an inch of NWFP seems to be governable anymore. The warlords are gaining ground everyday while the state itself is withering away rapidly. Sovereignty, independence, the writ of state, its dignity, honour and self-respect are not matters that are guaranteed to any state that cannot manage these aspects of nationhood effectively with its people happily onboard. It is well past wake-up time for Pakistan.
Today, it is necessary for the world to realise that for no fault of the Pakhtuns they have been dealt a very raw and unjust deal over the centuries by one or another superpower of the times. It was not the fault of the Pakhtuns to have found their land lying fair and square in the way of the Soviets march towards the Arabian Sea. It is also not the fault of the Pakhtuns that the US brought young men from across the Islamic world to Pakistan and Afghanistan after motivating them to conduct jihad against the Soviets and then left them all as orphans in the rugged land of the Pakhtuns.
Pakistan and the world now owe it to the Pakhtuns to provide them with peace, tranquillity and a pace of unprecedented progress and development. I will add to this the poor and neglected Balochistan which too has borne the brunt of violence in Afghanistan over the past few decades. The devastated Pakhtuns of Pakistan and Afghanistan along with the neglected Balochistan now need to have their wounds healed with peace and development. It should be done before history reshapes itself and nothing is left to salvage.
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