Friday, 11 January 2013

United by history, divided by reality

-This article reminded me of the alleged quote by Ghaffar Khan “My son Wali Khan does not represent me. All he wants is some job or some portion from the Punjabis and he will remain in Pakistan satisfied,”. This article was originally titled 'Why I gave up Pashtun nationalist ideals ?' republished with kind permission of the author -ed note

By Jan Achakzai

I am the second generation in my family to have the honour to serve my Pashtun community . It started from a small village in Balochistan's Pishin district when my late father Abdul Nabi Khan Achakzai joined Late Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai Shaheed in his fight against the English imperialism. Since my father spent nearly 2 decades of his life in South India, he knew what it meant to be under the subjugation of English Raj what he used to refer to "Farangi Raj". After partition, he continued to struggle with Khan Shaheed against various dictators in Pakistan. It was due to my father that we all brothers unconsciously knew only one party and one politics: Khan Shaheed's political heir e.g., the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party's (PkMAP) nationalist politics.

This is why my late brother Zarif Khan Achakzai Shaheed during Zia ul Haq's harsh rule, participated in nationalist struggle for democracy. He was frequently arrested due to his political activities under the banner of the PkMAP. He was so invested that it became a ritual for all of us including my self at the school going age that we would spent hours discussing politics. Even one of my brothers was arrested for listening to BBC Urdu service and put behind bars for more then three months.

Later, I continued to participate in student politics and carried anti-martial law activities in late eighties running underground cells involving meetings, anti-martial law publicity campaigns like putting posters on walls, anti Zia ul Haq sloganeering so on and so forth.

But a tragic twist came when my ageing parents were devastated and the whole family was struck by the tragedy of my brother's death who offered extreme sacrifice: his life, at the age of 42 nearly two decades ago in pursuit of his nationalist beliefs. This tragedy suddenly brought in family responsibilities and shaped my next choice to join journalism to write for my motherland continuing my struggle for my convictions in line with family traditions.

After my further education and journalistic career in England, I tuned more mature and kept the burning torch alive writing in Pakistan's newspapers, international media, bloggers and other social media— no wonder, googling my profile on the internet will bring forth hundreds of my articles on issues that were dear to my heart.

However, the broader context in Pakistan also changed, in the meanwhile: with democracy in Pakistan fully restored , Pashtun nationalist forces started participating in elections and thus came into power on and off. I observed that the ideals I and my family worked for relentlessly, became more slogans for vote grabbing; and my ex-nationalists colleagues were confronted with serious allegations of corruption, and misuse of power as were other accused belonging to various traditional parities including the PPP and the PML (N). Serious Issues were relegated to the back burner: more emphasis was placed on one's tribal background; vote soliciting and money power were became criteria for seat distributions. At the end, parliamentary politics toned down nationalist fervour of the nationalist forces.

Now my real change of heart came like this: I always believed that my struggle will ultimately benefit these nationalist forces as they would be the major beneficiaries if the masses supported them. But it dawned on me that they were no more eager to appreciate the kind of intellectual heavy lifting I used to do.

Second, I realised that after democracy and the 18th amendment in the constitution, the legitimacy for "nationalist grievances" particularly of majority Pashtuns in Khyber Pashtunkhwa suddenly disappeared. It was now a struggle of different kind: more autonomy and more powers for the province rather than any rhetoric of Pashtun integration: "greater pashtunistan or Pashtun integration": the bedrock of nationalist ideal. Others like me who have remained leftists or have western exposure had to admit with heavy hearts that their ideals were abandoned by their idolised leaders.

Third, as far Pashtun grievances in Balochistan are concerned, I realised that they were solvable. I came to the conclusion that ultimately Pashtuns were better off if they shared resources with Balochs, of course, under a defined and improvised mechanism of budgetary allocation between the two ethnic groups. Any government with a mandate, all it needs is to introduce a kind of quota in jobs and resources between the Pashtuns and the Balochs perhaps emulating the quota system prevailing in urban and rural Sind. This will simply extinguish any nationalistic aspirations of Pashtun nationalists depriving them of their main reason to get anti-Baloch votes in elections thus forcing them to look for other more mundane ideals of politics (e.g., giving jobs, education, health etc to their constituents).

Fourth, the pressing problems of Pashtuns in Balochistan are mainly creation of more jobs, mattled roads, schools and hospitals. The only party that is at the moment trying to do this job is Jamat Ulema-ie-Islam Fazlur Rehman group (JUI-F) which has a sitting minister almost for every Pashtun-dominated district since the first post Martial Law elections of 1988. This is why they get elected again, again and yet again.

Fifth, talking of Pashtun center right, JUI-F is the only alternative in Balochistan for any aspiring center-left Pashtun politician with a reasonable chance to be elected by the masses. Besides, due to anti-American sentiments , geo-political events next door in Afghanistan and the kind of historic failure of centre left and left political forces in Pashtun areas of Balochistan, centre right politics is perhaps the pragmatic solution for resolving people's problems. Moreover, among the two traditional centres of Pashtun power, the Mosque and the "Hujra", JUI-F enjoys support in both centres as opposed to the nationalists who have a sway in "Hujra" only.

Sixth, having hailed from border area of Chaman/Qilla Abdullah region, I have strong tribal background and having served the BBC Pashtu Service for nearly 15 years, I enjoy quite popularity, impeccable reputation and the love of my people.

I have been approached by different political parties. I have also started meeting senior political leaders of the country including Moulana Fazal Rahman of JUI(F) to decide my next course of action.

For now the pashtun nationalist project is done and dusted.

-The author is a senior journalist and Afghan Affairs' analyst based in London. He can be reached at Janachakzai200@gmail.com
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