By Khaled Ahmed
June 2, 2018
We don’t know how the United Nations’ 6th World Happiness Report calculated that Pakistan is ahead of India, China, Iran, and Afghanistan on the ranking table of happiness. But ask anyone on the Pakistani street and you will be hit with more unhappiness than anywhere in South Asia. If you watch the TV channels in the region, the lack of joy in Pakistan will overwhelm you. And “unhappy India”, killing innocent Pakistanis across the LoC and harassing Pakistani diplomats in New Delhi through its secret agents, adds to this suffering. The world is actually enjoying all this secretly.
After the recent Senate elections, Pakistani media succumbed to depravity as Pakistani politicians go for each other’s throat and the establishment herds them around at will as the “rejoicing third party”. This unnamed party is pulling the political rug from under the feet of the dysfunctional state and is set to booby-trap the June general election.
India can get away with anything because it is not internally troubled and no terrorism radiates from it to the outside world while Pakistan faces sanctions for harbouring terrorists. No matter what India does to punish Pakistan, it is with the tacit approval of the world sick of Pakistan’s lack of internal sovereignty with 60 per cent of its territory without the writ of the state. The political parties are entangled in their vendettas, siding with the “third party” to bring each other’s government down.
Then there is the “unhappiest” community of all, the Pashtun. The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) showed its genuine numerical muscle in Peshawar on April 8, asking for rights Pakistan has deprived them of. Triggered by the murder of a South Waziristan shopkeeper in Karachi at the hands of a police officer in a “fake encounter”, the PTM is asking questions that the state of Pakistan can’t answer. The gathering of thousands from the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, asked “da sange azadi dey” (what kind of freedom is this?). They want settlement after their long status as refugees within Pakistan following mammoth evacuation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
FATA has borne the brunt of jihad against the Soviet Union, accepting “foreign warriors” funded by the US and Saudi Arabia. Local tribal elders who ran the territory through their kind of panchayat called jirga were murdered to make place for warlords who spearheaded the jihad. In the process, the proud Pashtun nation was pulverised.
Pakistan made the decision to “preserve” the tribal society of the Pashtun by keeping them separate from the rest of Pakistan, which meant no development amid primitive laws. After FATA couldn’t sustain the growing population, internal migration took place and destroyed the roots of the Pashtun culture. Nobody paid attention till “internal” became “external” and FATA men started migrating to the Middle East.
Then the Afghan jihad spawned local warlords who destroyed the jirga system, and mere savagery replaced Pakistan’s badly-scuffed administration. After this, Pakistan had to suffer the consequences of the original decision to retain FATA as a kind of tribal museum, without schools and economic development. Karachi, in time, became the largest Pashtun city in the world. It too became lawless like FATA.
The Pashtun form the largest community of workers in Qatar and feature beyond their numerical strength in Pakistan in all the states of the UAE. They have migrated to Balochistan over centuries and now challenge the Baloch as the majority community. Instead of settling the tribal region, Pakistan’s foreign policy and geostrategic thinking has allowed millions of more unhappy Pashtuns from Afghanistan to seek shelter in areas where the local Pashtuns are already unsettled. Counted together, the Afghan and Pakistani Pashtuns form the largest refugee population in the world.
Traditionally, the Awami National Party of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa represented the Pashtun. Now the PTM wants Pakistan to retrace its steps and treat them as normal citizens. The truth is that the Pashtun represent the failure of Pakistan to become a normal state. It was broken up in 1971 because of the mistakes it made. Now the Pashtun want a correction that Pakistan will do well to understand before it suffers yet another tragedy.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, Newsweek Pakistan