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Pashtuns’ unprecedented movement for justice in Pakistan

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Pashtuns’ unprecedented movement for justice in Pakistan
 Millions of ethnic Pashtuns have endured years of terrorist violence, military operations, and displacement in northwestern Pakistan, and yet their protests rarely reverberate in the country’s capital, Islamabad.
The murder of a young Pashtun shopkeeper, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in a fake police encounter on January 13 in the financial heart of Pakistan, Karachi, has led to what is being referred to as the Pashtun Long March: Since February 4 thousands of Pashtun activists have gathered outside the press club in Islamabad chanting the slogan of Azadi (Freedom) and highlighting human rights violations against their community.
Pashtuns from Waziristan started the march on January 26 and were joined by 10,000 fellow Pashtuns from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. According to a report in Gandhara RFERL ”In a series of emotional speeches, speaker after speaker ran through their grievances and called on Pakistani government to act, adding Naqeebullah Mehsud was not the first Pashtun killed unlawfully in this country, where a lot of other blood has been also spilled.
Many of those who took part in the Islamabad protest say they are angry over Pashtun profiling and atrocities by Pakistani security forces. They are saying that have endured immeasurable suffering, their bodies bear the scars of what they have endured, and their homeland has turned into hell.
As the unprecedented protest of Pashtuns against Pakistani government continues for at least past two weeks, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Friday said he supports the protest and that he hopes it will succeed in uprooting terrorism from the region.
“Just like the Lawyers’ Community in Pakistan succeeded in their movement, I hope PashtunLongMarch would also succeed in uprooting and eradicating terrorism from their region,” President Ghani said in his Facebook Page.
“I fully support the historical PashtunLong March in Pakistan. The main purpose of which is to mobilize citizens against fundamentalism and terrorism in the region,” President Ghani added, saying the historical importance of the march traces back to the great proponent of non-violence, Bacha Khan, whose philosophy was based on the non-violent ideology.
The President called on media outlets to help the protest in voicing their grievances and demands and presenting their true image to the world.
The president said that after the tragedies of Kabul, he had remarked that Afghans and the people of this region should align against terrorism and that he considers the Pashtun Long March a response to those remarks and a wake-up call against fundamentalism.
The recent emerging political consciousness indicates growing dissatisfaction with Pakistani government and the traditional Pashtun leadership which have failed to come up with a clear and effective political plan and program to steer the Pashtun region out of the current crisis. Their hollow slogans and empty condemnations are becoming increasingly irrelevant.
Indeed, Pashtuns don’t want to continue living as second class citizens, rather they want a fairer and more critical engagement with the state and its project of Pakistani nationalism. They are unequivocally clear in their criticism of the hegemonic narratives of the state and the role of its ill-advised adventurous policies in creating and sustaining the menace of terrorism.
It is for the first time in history that a movement that isn’t initiated by any nationalist political party has consistently embraced Pashtun identity in Pakistan. The mainly spontaneous movement that’s largely blacked out by Pakistan’s Urdu language media, has attracted huge sympathy and support from all sections of Pashtuns not just from within Pakistan, but also from Afghanistan and Pashtun diaspora based in UK, US, Canada and many other countries.