The historic sham celebrated under the FATA merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stood exposed last Sunday, June 3, 2018 when PTM activists were attacked by members of the so called Peace Committee in Wana, where three PTM members were killed and about 40 wounded.
The state’s blatant patronage of Taliban was clearly evident following this incident. Prior to the onslaught of state and state actors on individuals demanding citizenship rights, classic and hackneyed intimidation methods were used to impede the PTM. Threatening PTM activist Ali Wazir and his family was part of the deep state’s designs to stop PTM from questioning the military’s arbitrary scheme of maintaining the fragility of the western border.
Ali Wazir reached his filling station in his native town of Wana where he was received by PTM activists. The following day, the PTM planned a sit-in in Wana against the recent target killings in Waziristan and Taliban’s increased activities and threats to natives, particularly PTM activists.
According to reports, Ali Wazir was at his petrol pump when the members of the peace committee arrived and started removing Manzoor’s insignia cap of the PTM from the heads of its activists as eel as from the shops in the market to burn them. It was a naked provocation leading to confrontation between the PTM and the misnomer peace committee. The unarmed resistance of PTM activists infuriated the so called peace committee band, locally known as the good Taliban under the state protection, to open fire on them.
On June 4, the Islamabad police arrested 28 PTM activists from the Islamabad Press Club, where they were protesting against the Wana carnage. The next day, they were sent to Adiala jail without being taken before a magistrate. On June 5, they were brought to the district courts in prison vehicles where they were bundled for three hours in the vehicle outside the court in the scorching heat. Later, the police only obtained the order and sent them to jail for 14 days on judicial remand without presenting them in person.
The locals also dispute the DGISPR comments in his press conference that the provocation occurred during the Jirga when the PTM activists were chanting anti-army slogans, forcing the peace committee to respond as it did. They claimed the firing by the peace committee was unsolicited as the PTM members were unarmed and had gathered there to receive Ali Wazir on his arrival to Wana. Ali Wazir’s decades long agitation against Taliban presence in Waziristan has turned him into a prime target. The DGISPR’s comments regarding the role of the so called peace committee and his implicit defence of its crimes raise many disturbing questions and are predicative of a very dangerous trend. It shows that a state institution can employ spurious tools to counter a peaceful civil rights movement through violence.
To date the military claims that the peace committee played a critical role during the military and post military operation against the Taliban. Perhaps inadvertently, the DGISPR did not realise that the menial short term objectives of countering a nascent movement would open a Pandora’s box.
In the same press briefing, the DGISPR not only accused the PTM of being used by foreign powers but also presented a chart containing names of reputed journalists and social media activists labelling them anti-state. Both gestures do not bode well for freedom of expression.
First, it is a question mark on the professionalism of the army. It has used a private Lashkar (militia) in a situation which they called a full-fledged war for which the army demands national and international recognition and reward.
Second, the most mind boggling question is about the legitimacy and origin of the peace committee. According to the local account, Wana’s sub division has been divided into four distinct zones, each falls under a Taliban commander; Bawal Alias Ayubi, Ainullah, Malang and Taj.
The Wana Bazaar or market area is controlled on one month’s rotation by each group of the commanders. All the four groups have their ‘offices’ in the Wana Bazar and are recognised by the administration as peace committees. Currently, the area is under Taliban commander Ainullah’s control.
The identities of the members of the peace committee are no longer a secret nor are their allegiance and affiliation with the Afghanistan Taliban and their ideology. Certainly, this gives credence to the perception of good and bad Taliban and their use by the state as a policy tool in foreign and security policy as well in the domestic political arena.
Third, a state institution has condoned, or rather, permitted a private group of people to counter a legitimate citizens’ movement using violent methods, as the DGISPR’s comments underline appreciation for their actions against those who criticise the military’s actions.
This development further accentuates suspicions regarding the hundreds of target killing of those who criticise the Taliban as well as the military. The fundamental question is, why did the Taliban kill those who were not buying the military narrative on the War on Terror?
For the last five months the youth have not only raised their voice for civil rights under the PTM banner and upheld the Constitution which grants fundamental rights to citizens, it also determined the limits of the state power and its various institutions. In fact the youth of PTM established a healthy precedent that no institution is above the Constitution.
For the first time the PTM brought the impunities under the limelight which was so far shrouded in the sensitivities of the national security cover that breached the constitutional framework beyond recognition. In yonder years, like the Orwellian affair, everything had to be accepted on face value with no option of asking questions or giving explanations.
Since January, I have repeatedly written that instead of countering the PTM using spurious tools and brushing them as traitors or portraying them as rebels to justify use of force against this peaceful civil rights movement, the security establishment should mend its destructive policies of domination that created the situation to give birth to resistance movements. Most importantly, it should refrain from using the same tools which have already exposed its feeble claims.
Even as I wrote this, my social media feeds started showing alarming reports about curfews restricting peoples’ mobility, and Taliban members gathering around Ali Wazir’s village with heavy weapons.