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Pushtoons at mercy of religious hardliners in coalition govt

Whatever might be claims and justifications on the part of Prime Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif but it is the fact that nationalist, progressive and moderate Pushtoons are lacking representation in the federal cabinet. And the vacuum erupted with lacking of due representation to nationalists and progressive minded Pushtoon leadership in the federal government, will be definitely filled by no other than Jamiat Ul Ulema Islam (F) which is now wholly solely defending Talibanisation not only across the border in Afghanistan but also in the region.

Awami National Party considered most effective in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan has only one MNA in National Assembly and its leadership regretted representation in the federal cabinet at own. Whereas Independent MNA Mohsin Dawar’s induction in the cabinet was opposed by powerful military establishment. Another independent MNA Ali Wazir is in Jail, facing treason charges. Both Ali and Mohsin were leaders of Pushtoon Tahafuz Movement but now they seems disintegrated when Mohsin constituted own party with name of National Democratic Movement.

Though the previous Imran Khan regime was dominated by Pushtoons but almost of them were lacking minds to address the genuine issues and expectations of Pushtoons. On one side, Imran Khan had monopolized almost policies and decisions whereas on the other these former federal ministers along with Speaker and Deputy Speaker remains voiceless before the powerful military establishment-which didn’t allow others interfere in administrative, security and even development matters of Pushtoons dominated areas due to its “interests or stakes across the border in Afghanistan.”

No doubt to mention that due to involvement of powerful military establishment, politically the Pushtoons remained disintegrated since inception of the country in 1947. However, till mid of 70’s the two powerful nationalists politicians Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan commonly known as Bacha Khan and Khan Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai have made their best of maintaining due representation in parliament and other political forums as well. However, their internal rifts and their differences with fellow Baluch and Sindhi politicians posed adverse impacts, thus paving the ways for no other than hardliners religious minded political groups and other conservative political forces of getting influence in the Pushtoons dominated areas throughout the country.

Till August 15th 2021, the situation remained very friendly for Pushtoon nationalists and democrats and unfriendly for military establishment loyal religious hardliners. But now all matters took ugly turns as Pakistan’s powerful military establishment succeeded in empowering of its loyal Taliban across the border in Afghanistan. And reasonable religious hardliners from all over Pakistan in general and Pushtoons dominated areas in particular are not only politically supporting and defending Talibanisation in Afghanistan but thousands of youngsters are playing key role in implementation of Afghan Taliban’s doctrine of Islam. Still the youngsters either on completion of education or on leaves from seminaries having the first choice to serve in ranks of Taliban across the border in Afghanistan.

The new federal cabinet of Mian Shahbaz Sharif id comprising at least four ministers from fellow JUI(F) and an advisor from PML(N). Whereas the second higher post parliament, Deputy Speaker of National Assembly also gifted to JUI(F). Structure of federal government confirms at least third higher space to JUI(F) of Maulana Fazal Ur Rahman-known for a “visible shift in policies towards powerful military establishment and Afghanistan after mysterious assassination ( November 2nd 2018 at Islamabad) of Maulana Sami Ul Haq chief of his faction JUI(S). Though Maulana Fazal Ur Rahman and his aides disagree but events confirms that they are now supporting Taliban. Earlier in 90’s Maulana Fazal Ur Rahman or his party never backed Talibanisation in Afghanistan.

The growing influence of Taliban in Afghanistan or Talibanisation in the region is a serious threat to the future peace, stability, progress and prosperity of Pushtoons throughout Pakistan. Compare to Punjabis, Sindhis and Baluchs, the trend if religious extremism is on rise amongst the Pushtoons dominated areas. Recently held elections since 2013 confirms that compare to progressive, democratic and moderate Pushtoons, the strength hardliners winner is on highest. Instead of highlighting the genuine socio-politico, economic, administrative and security issues of Pushtoons, these religious minded MP’s always confined them to advocacy of religious extremism in parliament proceedings. Similar was the position of PTI MP’s who in last around four years, said nothing expect endorsing accusations and allegations of deposed Prime Minister Imran Khan against his political rivals.

Lacking of representation to genuine Pushtoons is now heated topic for debate amongst the socio-politico circles throughout the country. It is likely to lead to integration some of the political parties and groups for contesting jointly coming general elections. Besides others, some circles are making reconciliation between the families of Wali Khan and Aftab Sherpao considered staunch rivals since 1975 last. Likewise certain smaller factions are also trying to ensure support to biggest and effective nationalists and democrats in next general elections.

Shamim Shahid

Shahmim Shahid is Peshawar-based senior political and security analyst. He can be reached at shamimpeshawar@gmail.com

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