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The War of Terror in Praetorian Pakistan: The Emergence and Struggle of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement

Author: Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

Affiliation: Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan. 

Organization/Publisher: Journal of Contemporary Asia

Date/Place: August 31, 2020/UK

Type of Literature: Article 

Number of Pages: 15


Keywords: Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, Establishment, Pashtun, United States.



The article focuses on the US and Pakistani establishment’s alliance in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The “war on terror” has dismantled Afghanistan and the bordering Pashtun-populated regions in Pakistan. The indifferent behavior of the unholy trinity US drone, Taliban, and Pakistani security establishment toward the ethnic Pashtun has created a civil rights uprising. The fake-encounter killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a native of Waziristan, by local police in Karachi along with a state policy of enforced disappearances of ethnic Baluch and Pashtun in the early 2000s has brought the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM, Pashtun Protection Movement) to the forefront.  Professor and politician Aasim Sajjad Akhter argues that the non-violent protest movement, inclined for dharna (sit-in Protest) in Islamabad, has challenged the legitimacy of the “war on terror” and shook the national security state of Pakistan. The principal patrons of mujahideen (holy warriors) including General (and later President) Zia-ul-Haq pushed the country on the path of radicalization, which became prominent after 9/11. The author points out that the political economy of jihad entailed not only training and incubating mujahideen, but also involved the wholesale induction of ideologically committed functionaries at all levels of Pakistan’s coercive state apparatus which have remained in the country’s plethora of secret agencies. The US’ “do more” mantra was branded in different versions (but with the same results—civilian casualties) by the Pakistani security state’s counter-terrorism strategies in Federally Administered Tribal Areas and other districts; the military operations of Zarb-e Azab (Swift and Sharp Strike), Rah-e-Nijat (Pathway to Salvation), and Radd-ul-Fasaad (Elimination of Discord) were propagated as a resounding success by army officials. But the civilian causalities, which exceeded 100,000, and the role of the Pakistan army simply mirrors US led NATO forces in Afghanistan. Sajjad critically analyzes the role of civilian government issuing a blank cheque to the security establishment – a majority of bourgeois parties have willingly been junior partners to the generals that have been arbiters of power for most of the country’s existence. The author concludes with a positive note that as Pakistan staggers from one crisis to the next, that the alternative hegemonic impulses of the PTM offer hope of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. 


By: Razia Wadood, CIGA Senior Research Associate



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