Pol­i­tics of eth­nic­ity, provin­cial­ism

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Dr Muham­mad Khan Email: drmk_edu@ya­hoo.com

THE Soviet in­va­sion of Af ghanistan in the decade of 1980 has caused huge in­flux of Afghan refuges in Pak­istan. There has been time that the to­tal strength of the Afghan refuges crossed over to four mil­lion at a one par­tic­u­lar time. Cur­rently, there are over 2.6 mil­lion Afghan refugees re­sid­ing in var­i­ous parts of Pak­istan, though the of­fi­cial fig­ures are 1.6 mil­lion. Afghan refugees were al­lowed to take refuge in Pak­istan in the decade of 1980 on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds, as there was an ac­tive war go­ing on in Afghanistan be­tween in­vad­ing Rus­sian forces and Afghan re­sis­tant groups, com­monly known as Afghan Mu­jhadeen, who were sup­ported by United States and its al­lies in­clud­ing Pak­istan. In a way, it was a war be­tween USSR and US. US covertly fought the war and was able to de­feat and dis­in­te­grate the for­mer Soviet Union in 1989/90.

Though Afghanistan is far from be­ing sta­balised, how­ever, in the pre­vi­ous one decade, mil­lion of Afghan refugees have re­turned home, leav­ing be­hind the above men­tioned reg­is­trated and un­reg­is­tered num­ber of Afghan refugees, still liv­ing in Pak­istan. Pak­istan has en­sured best pos­si­ble fa­cil­i­ties for the Afghan refugees in all fields of life. To­day in many parts of Pak­istan, they are form­ing a siz­able part of Pak­istani busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties. The Gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple of Pak­istan gave them equal treat­ment as to the Pak­istani na­tion­als. Nev­er­the­less, they are Afghan Na­tion­als and were to go back at some point of time, there­fore, few years back, Pak­istan felt ap­pro­pri­ate to send them back to their par­ent state to get set­tle and ac­crue the ben­e­fits of the in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, be­ing pro­vided to Afghan Gov­ern­ment.

The suc­ces­sive po­lit­i­cal Pak­istani gov­ern­ments have not been firm to their de­ci­sions, hence con­tinue ex­tend­ing the de­par­ture dates for the Afghan refugees un­der one or an­other pre­texts. Very re­cently, Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif has ex­tended the date, al­ready set as June 30, 2016 for an­other six months. This un­due lib­eral ap­proach has brought into fore two as­pects. One, lack of de­ci­sion-mak­ing power and its up­hold­ing there­after. Two; the po­lit­i­cal com­pul­sions, the Gov­ern­ment has from their rul­ing al­lies. Both these fac­tors give rise to a feel­ing of per­plex Gov­ern­ment with frag­ile gov­er­ance and weak­ness, to the ex­tent of be­ing dic­tated. These as­pects have cre­ated poor im­pres­sion of the Gov­ern­ment both at do­mes­tic level as well as at the global level.

Do­mes­ti­cally, the so-called sym­pa­this­ers of the Afghan refugees, hav­ing po­lit­i­cal al­liance with the Gov­ern­ment are con­tin­u­ously black­mail­ing it for not forc­ing the repar­ti­a­tion of the Afghan refugees on po­lit­i­cal and eth­nic ba­sis. Pres­ence of Afghan refugees in some parts of Pak­istan, es­pe­cially Balochis­tan Prov­ince have been ad­van­ta­gious to a par­tic­u­lar eth­nop­o­lit­i­cal group for mak­ing the de­mo­graphic changes in the prov­ince and fur­ther­ing po­lit­i­cal gains.

It was the same fac­tor that im­pelled Mah­mood Khan Achakzai, the Head of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party’s (PkMAP) to say that, “if Afghans are ha­rassed in other parts of Pak­istan, they should come here to KP, where no one can ask them for refugee cards, be­cause it also be­longs to them.” PkMAP se­cured 10 Pro­vin­cial Assemly seat and three Na­tional As­sem­bly seats in 2013 elec­tions, com­pared to an ig­nor­able strength of its win­ning can­di­dates in the past gen­eral elec­tions.

Though in a later in­ter­view, Mr Achakzai tried to dis­pell this im­pres­sion, nev­er­the­less, the fact re­main that, he meant, what he said in his orig­i­nal state­ment. He would like the Afghan refugees to po­lit­i­cally ben­e­fit his ethno-po­lit­i­cal party. His po­lit­i­cal thought is that, “the land be­tween Oxus and In­dus is the his­tor­i­cal land of Pash­tuns which was di­vided dur­ing suc­ces­sive at­tacks on Afghan ter­ri­tory and there­fore cur­rently is un­der the con­trol of other na­tions.” In his opin­ion over the years, Pash­tun na­tion has lost its land to other na­tions, may be ow­ing to the lack of; “po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness, unity and na­tional stance on col­lec­tive is­sues.” Con­trary to the peo­ple like Hamid Karazai, PkMAP leader is a strong ad­vo­cate that, “Du­rand Line is an in­ter­na­tional is­sue.” He even con­sid­ered it at par with Kash­mir Dis­pute. In one of his re­cent in­ter­view, Hamid Karazai de­clared Du­rand Line as a lo­cal is­sue be­tween Pak­istan and Afghanistan, rather an in­ter­na­tional is­sue.

In the his­tory of Pak­istan, un­for­tu­nately, many ethno-po­lit­i­cal par­ties have their strong lin­eage and as­so­ci­a­tion with Kabul or New Delhi even at the cost of sovereignty and in­te­gri­ety of the state of Pak­istan. At time, they have been fol­low­ing the dic­tates from these coun­tries to the dis­ad­van­tage of Pak­istan. These as­pects are re­gretable on one hand and raise ques­tions about their al­liances with rul­ing par­ties, some­how. These par­ties have been very crit­i­cal to the role of Armed forces and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies in the past in the is­sues of na­tional in­ter­ests of Pak­istan. The ma­jor is­sues have been that, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and armed forces de­sire Pak­istani na­tional in­ter­ests to be served while safe­guard­ing its sovereignty and in­te­gri­ety, whereas these forces have their per­sonal and party in­ter­ests and may be the in­ter­ests of Kabul and New Delhi. This clash­ing sit­u­a­tion has cre­ated a dilema for the state and so­ci­ety of Pak­istan.

In no way, the ethno-po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests of few groups should com­pro­mise the Na­tional In­ter­ests of Pak­istan. The need of the hour is that, all po­lit­i­cal forces of Pak­istan must pro­mote unity, har­mony and in­te­gri­ety among the Pak­istani masses. Afghan refugees must go back to their home­land, as Pak­istan is the home­land of Pak­istani peo­ple. We have hosted them for decades now. The ethno-po­lit­i­cal par­ties must stop back­mail­ing and ex­ploita­tive form of pol­i­tics. While be­ing in Pak­istan and Pak­istani na­tional, let us be Pak­istani in essence. — The writer is In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions an­a­lyst based in Islamabad.

In no way, the ethno-po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests of few groups should com­pro­mise the Na­tional In­ter­ests of Pak­istan. The need of the hour is that, all po­lit­i­cal forces of Pak­istan must pro­mote unity, har­mony and in­te­gri­ety among the Pak­istani masses.

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