The Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) renewed its struggle against the extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns, with senior lawyer Latif Afridi being the latest casualty. The central leadership of PTM including PTM Chairman Manzoor Pashtun have been spearheading these efforts, with the support of the family members of missing persons.
Massive military operations were carried out in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and former FATA regions in the so-called War on Terror. Almost 80,000 Pashtuns were killed, more than 200,000 houses and markets were demolished, and many Pashtuns were forced to take shelter in camps. According to PTM’s Central Committee for Human Rights and Truth Commission, about 20,000 people from the community have forcibly disappeared, of which around 8,000 have been confirmed by PTM. According to PTM, there are more than 2000 enforced disappearances in Khyber Agency alone, and there have been hundreds of extrajudicial killings. The families of missing persons have taken to multiple platforms including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Legislative Assembly to intensify efforts for the recovery of missing persons. In every meeting, procession and protest by PTM, there are a large number of relatives of missing persons who participate with the pictures of their loved ones to pressurize the authorities to act.
Despite the military operations that claimed success in eradicating extremists from KP, there are no signs of a decrease in violence by non-state actors. There are reports that individuals from banned outfits were welcomed back into KP. It has also become clear that there is no distinction between Good Taliban and Bad Taliban.
Former Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf was accused of handing over 4,000 people to the United States in the name of the War on Terror. A multi-billion dollar military-industrial complex emerged amidst the attempts to disintegrate the Pashtun society. At present, thousands of Pashtun mothers, sons and village elders are protesting for the recovery of their missing kin. Most importantly, they consciously opted for a constitutional path to address their grievance. Pakistan’s Missing Persons Commission has thousands of pending cases in each province but has not done enough work in this regard. There are incidents of harassment of women relatives of missing persons during their appearances before the Commission. A Dawn report in June 2022 reported on Islamabad High Court (IHC) observation “that the missing persons’ commission headed by retired Justice Javed Iqbal has become a liability and failed to justify its existence”.
Despite the judiciary’s efforts and directives to act on the grievances of the missing persons, there is a state of fear among the media and civil society in openly discussing the matter. Political parties and Human Rights organizations usually refrain from talking about it except for a few organizations like the PTM or their counterparts in Balochistan. Other international human rights organizations, including the United Nations, are surprisingly silent regarding Pashtun missing persons. The protest camp of the missing persons demanded the recovery of the missing persons. The PTM remains firm on its demand for the formation of a truth commission. Those who killed thousands of Pashtuns should be brought to justice, there should be an impartial investigation into the billions of dollars spent in the name of war against terrorism, the responsibility for the physical, economic and emotional costs incurred by Pashtuns should be accounted for. Tragically, the elements involved in war crimes in the name are far from being held accountable.