By Zia Ur Rehman

Jan 27-Feb 2, 2012

“Any given society is represented by various schools of thoughts that take the form of ideologies. They represent the mechanisms through which individuals, ethnicities or nations attempt to adapt or respond to the constantly changing environment,” says Arif Ansar, a security expert associated with Politact, a Washington based think tank. “But the important thing to consider is what is perceived as causing the change. Because that has an influence on the type of response that is formulated.”

In the last two or three centuries, he says, changes in the Pashtun environment have come from external sources. They were considered intrusions and fiercely resisted. “Some of these responses include the resistance of Afghan Taliban against the US, the Mujahideen against the Russains, and before that, the resistance against the British.”

Although references are often made to events of Pashtun resistance from the past, especially the Faqir of Ipi, Mullah Powindah and Pir Roshan, says Raees Ahmed, a Pashtun university professor from Quetta, those historical figures had a strong Pashtun nationalistic bias and they were not known for targeting their own people.

“Foreign militants, especially Arabs, Uzbeks and Punjabis have introduced such inhumane and unIslamic trends as beheadings, suicide bombings, attacking mosques or hujras (guest houses) and flogging women,” said Idress Kamal, a leader of Aman Tehrik, a civil society alliance in Khyber Pakhtunkwa.

“Ethnically, the Taliban are not a Pashtun homogeneous group,” Kamal said. “They are an amalgamation of different jiahdi groups hailing from various ethnicities and nations, and prominent among them are more ideological Punjab-based jihadi outfits.

After 9/11, religious groups such as the Difa-e-Afghanistan Council, an alliance that included key religious parties, were urging people to join hands with the Afghan Taliban because they were Pashtuns. “Thousands of people from Malakand division and Bajaur agency went to Afghanistan under the leadership of Sufi Muhammad, head of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi, and were either killed, arrested or are still missing. But Sufi Muhammad and a dozen of his men came back safely to Pakistam,” said an elder of the Salarzai tribe of Bajaur.

“Pashtuns of Pakistan have always rejected religious extremism,” said an ANP provincial leader. “The last elections show that they are liberal, progressive people and their leadership is predominately anti-Taliban.”

“At least 360 elders and fighters of the Salarzai clan have been killed while battling the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in Bajaur,” the tribal leader said. “We are peaceful people and our elders have rendered sacrifices to save our motherland and the Pashtun society from these dark forces,” he said. He denied reports int he media that Al Qaeda and other terrorist leaders were given refuse in the tribal areas in line with the Pashtunwali code.

Aqeel Yousafzai, a Peshawar-based political analyst, says it is a fact that an overwhelming majority of Afghan Taliban are Pashtuns, and “the excesses of the militants belonging to Northern Alliance, an alliance of non-Pashtun jihadi groups in Afghanistan, is the main reason behind it”.

Former leaders of Khalaq and Parcham factions of the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan had tried to influence the Taliban into thinking about Pashtun nationalism and had succeeded in convincing them to make Pashto the country’s official language, he said. “But the Egyptian leadership of Al Qaeda wanted to turn the Taliban into an international Wahabi movement rather than a local Pashtun resistance movement.”