The ANP and revenge attacks —by Farhat Taj

If terror attacks in Pakistan is Pakhtun revenge, then the ANP must be involved in the attacks. Surely, ANP and non-ANP victims of terrorism share the same culture and social setup

By now the notion that several of the terror attacks in Pakistan are the Pakhtuns’ revenge in response to Pakistan military operations and US drone attacks in FATA has become well known. This notion is misleading and has no grounding in empirical evidence. I have been deconstructing this and other misleading stereotypes about Pakhtun society in these pages. It is really regrettable that now Mr Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Pakhtun nationalist ANP, also draws on the same notion, i.e. that those involved in acts of terrorism in Pakistan are motivated by revenge and hence should be engaged in dialogue in line with the Pakhtun culture. There are other comments in Mr Khan’s interview that can also be questioned in terms of empirical reality in the areas most affected by terrorism in Pakistan, that is FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but today I will focus only on his ‘revenge’ argument. Mr Khan’s interview is available on the ANP’s website (as well as through this link:

Many of the people who have suffered enormously in the ongoing terrorism in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are ANP leaders, workers and voters. If terror attacks in Pakistan is Pakhtun revenge, then the ANP must be involved in the attacks. Surely, ANP and non-ANP victims of terrorism share the same culture and social setup. If the latter can be engaged in terrorism as a response, why cannot the former? If families of people supposedly killed in army operations and drone strikes can take to revenge attacks, why cannot the countless people who have suffered at the hands of the Taliban do exactly the same, especially when both share the same culture that supposedly sanctions revenge in response to perceived injustice? The ANP should provide a list of its people who have been engaged in revenge attacks in Pakistan. This will put real names and faces to the notion of revenge attacks that stands devoid of empirical evidence to this date, despite being established as ‘conventional wisdom’ by many in the media and academia in complete violation of the professional standards required by these professions.

A terror attack is not just about offering oneself for the purpose. It involves training, provision of necessary equipment and clearing of security hurdles to reach the target. A lone person or a family motivated by revenge cannot perpetrate such attacks. Everyone knows that there are terror training centres in FATA for the purpose, including training centres where suicide bombers, mostly children, are trained. Does the ANP also have a hand in making and running of those centres?

Sad news is coming in as I write these lines. Veteran human rights activist Zarteef Khan of Khyber Agency has been target killed by militants in the area. Should we now expect the family of Zarteef Khan, especially his teenage sons, Qandahar and Zartasht, to be preparing for terror attacks on the state and society of Pakistan or for the Taliban to avenge his death? At least this would seem to be the logical conclusion from Asfandyar Wali Khan’s discourse.

Zarteef Khan has a long record of serving human rights, especially in his native Khyber Agency, and a recent example vividly shows the difference between tribesmen like Zarteef Khan and what the ANP has become. In a November 2011 by-election in Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, women voters were barred from exercising their right to vote. Reportedly, only three out of 18,000 registered female voters were allowed to vote. The ANP won that election. The ANP that is supposed to stand for basic human rights, including women’s political participation, is comfortable with its ‘women-less’ victory.

Back in 1997 when adult franchise was introduced in FATA, Zarteef Khan began a campaign to register women voters in Khyber agency, which was opposed by some tribal leaders in the area. People in Khyber Agency say that Zarteef Khan requested the then political agent of Khyber, Syed Amiruddin, to stop tribal leaders from interfering in the registration of the female voters. The political agent, himself a tribesman from Waziristan, exercised his administrative power to halt the tribal leaders with the result that female voters were registered. Some years down the road, the political agent’s Tank-based family suffered in the Qari Hussain-led Taliban attack on his residence that killed 13 people, including his guests and family members that included a woman and a child. The family of the political agent has not taken revenge on anyone for this brutal act of terrorism. This notion of revenge attacks is not just unfair but also an insult to countless families across FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, such as the families of Syed Amiruddin and Zarteef Khan. Such families have suffered immensely from the violence perpetrated by the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Pakistan army.

There are countless examples of both ANP and non-ANP families across FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who have suffered greatly at the hands of terrorism, but have not taken to any acts of revenge against anyone. This is a fact that has been blatantly distorted by a dominant pro-establishment media in Pakistan to put a Pakhtun face to terrorism in order to deflect focus from the deep state’s perpetration of terrorism for foreign policy objectives in Afghanistan and India. Now the top ANP leadership has added its voice to this propaganda.

The fact that now the top ANP leadership is using the deep state discourse that ‘Pakhtunises’ terrorism in Pakistan shows how the deep state is in command of Pakistan. This fact also demonstrates how much the ANP has debased itself to appease the establishment in order to survive in politics. The ANP appears to have become a B-team of the security establishment such that it is not merely silently complicit, but also approves vocally the establishment’s terrorism-nurturing policies. This is a not a good sign for the people of Pakistan because it implies that there is no civilian leadership (the PPP is as hopeless as the ANP) that can resist the anti-people agenda of the Pakistani generals. This means that the outside world, including the US, will be constrained to engage with the India-centric and Afghanistan-obsessed military establishment of Pakistan rather than with the civilian leadership on the security issues that most adversely affect the people rather than the Generals of Pakistan.

The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban

Source: Daily Times



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