By Kahar Zalmay
October 24, 2011
My people want to live peacefully with their neighbours. My people are poor, their wishes and desires too little and they want to live as free men, not soldiers.
During my extensive travels in the Pashtun heartland after a long time, I developed a feeling that the Pashtuns feel seriously marginalised and are suffering from a severe identity crisis. I observed that the problem is too deep and the understanding too little. We have been ignoring the cultural context and looking at militancy and terrorism from the prism of religion only. We want to have our own local TV channels, radio stations and publications whose agenda is set not in Islamabad and Karachi but here in our own land. These cable channels are as foreign to us as BBC and CNN. But you cannot have your own media channels. How would you run them without ads and also ‘we’ suspect you would indulge in anti-state activities. PEMRA will not allow it. And by the way, we are running one Pashto channel for you, why do you need more when you are well aware that the survival of our country is at stake. But I call this country my home, my mother, and my love for her is tightly locked in my heart. How can I betray my mother? But does she regard me as her child? If yes, then why do I feel marginalised and do not see a single TV programme, a show or a drama that reflects my culture, promotes my traditions, and highlights my customs? Not a single TV programme that discusses my social problems, not a single forum where my people do not feel alienated from the decision making process. You want me to be a laughingstock, to be ridiculed and demonised on the seemingly foreign channels? A constant reminder to us that we are judged and our little misstep could dent our loyalty to the country.
If I am my mother’s son, what do I share with my other brothers? You said culture, language and religion. The culture they show and promote on TV shows and dramas is as foreign to me as a culture from Tamil Nadu. The language they want me to speak is as foreign to me as English. Do I have a choice if I want my children to learn in their mother tongue? I hear children learn real fast in their mother tongue and India has around 20 national languages. I know I cannot dare ask for our own curriculum that is less propaganda, less information, and more knowledge. India is our mortal enemy. Try to avoid referencing her. Okay sir, I will not refer to her again. I am a nationalist and love my people but I do not mean to harm others. I am least bothered if they call them brothers who speak their language, who share their blood. I hear feelings and sentiments cannot be arrested by geographical boundaries. Can I call them brothers who share my blood, who speak my language? Do I have a right over what my land produces? We are willing to share some with our countrymen. I am happy for them if they are progressing. Can we co-exist on the basis of mutual interests for the good of all? I assure you our religion will still be the same. I hope I did not commit any treasonable act.
We can live together but I have serious doubts. I smell secessionist feelings. But I call this country my home. I want to stay here, I want to grow old and see my children grow up in this country. Can I live here as I am? Can my individuality be respected? Can my culture, my language and traditions be regarded and my love for this country not be suspected? Why do you push me to be what I am not; what I do not want to be?
You would be baptised and integrated only when you call your people backward and ill-mannered and disassociate from them. Do you not think it is too much on me? I read in books that the people in Bengal were pushed too much. A foreign language was imposed on them in the name of national unity. The books says they were our brothers, the followers of the same religion, and strong believers in the Two-Nation Theory. They were influenced by the enemy’s propaganda and you know we have many enemies, near and afar. I know the suspicion still stays with you but I want friends to surround me. My people want to live peacefully with their neighbours. My people are poor, their wishes and desires too little and they want to live as free men, not soldiers. I want them to long for affection and games and music and laughter and ease. I know you mean well sending your men for our security but I do not want my people to die hungry in the safety cover you provide. I do not want my people to live in a graveyard but a free environment, to seek solutions to their problems and not be influenced by the propaganda-driven talk shows hosted by charlatans and their participants whose intellectual dishonesty and irresponsibility is catastrophic.
I hear you echo, your Baloch brothers are separatists. They too protest all the time even though we have our men there for their protection. We even accepted them as our step-brothers and they receive a little share of what their land produces. What else can we do for them? That is very kind of you sir. I assume my Baloch brothers do not want to delink the links spread over more than six decades. They want to be the masters of their own destinies. I know it is too much and some day they might revisit their demand realising that there can be only one lion in the jungle. You seem to be an ungrateful specie. We protected you from the monsters and restored order. I acknowledge that and I owe you my eternal gratitude for that but it is a matter of opinion.
My submission is this: an environment of repression will keep on producing monsters. What do my people want, not much? They want ownership of whatever is related to their land, abstract and physical. They want their acceptance as individuals, with little desires and ambitions. I know and my brothers might agree with me that one of the tendencies of our establishment’s mind and pattern is an inability to learn. I see that obvious suspicion and coldness on your face; I acknowledge that it is an untouched ground but I must assure you that there are no whisperings behind the doors. We live in this country and we call it home.
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore