In Pak­istan, claims of racial pro­fil­ing

Pash­tuns say they are un­fairly tar­geted in an anti-ter­ror­ism crack­down af­ter bomb­ings claimed by mil­i­tants who share their eth­nic­ity

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY PAMELA CON­STA­BLE AND HAQ NAWAZ KHAN pamela.con­sta­ble@wash­ Khan re­ported from Peshawar.

rawalpindi, pak­istan — When the army and po­lice trucks prowl through af­flu­ent ar­eas in this sprawl­ing gar­ri­son city, head­lights flash­ing and ri­fle­men at the ready, res­i­dents breathe a sigh of re­lief.

But when the trucks en­ter cer­tain shab­bier neigh­bor­hoods, home to a mix of Afghan refugees, mi­grants and eth­nic Afghan Pash­tuns, chil­dren scat­ter and adults won­der who may be taken away next.

Since the Pak­istani se­cu­rity forces launched a na­tion­wide anti-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tion last month af­ter a spate of sui­cide bomb­ings, Pash­tun lead­ers have com­plained vo­cif­er­ously that their com­mu­ni­ties are be­ing tar­geted for ha­rass­ment and racial pro­fil­ing, es­pe­cially here in Pun­jab province.

Tra­di­tion­ally based in the north­west re­gion bor­der­ing Afghanistan, Pash­tuns who mi­grate or flee south to the Pun­jabi heart­land have of­ten been viewed as sus­pect out­siders, dis­dained by some as back­ward tribal peo­ple or war refugees with a pen­chant for crime and vi­o­lence.

Now they have been fur­ther tarred by the Afghan and Pash­tun ori­gins of the mil­i­tants who claimed most of the re­cent bomb­ings, which took more than 125 lives; one blast ripped through a crowded pub­lic square in La­hore, Pun­jab’s cap­i­tal.

“The au­thor­i­ties think ev­ery Pashto speaker is a refugee or a ter­ror­ist. We are be­ing tar­geted, but we, too, suf­fer from th­ese blasts,” said An­war Khan, 40, a fruit seller in an open-air mar­ket who mi­grated from the north­west a decade ago. He pulled up his trouser cuff to re­veal a row of metal pins in his leg, the re­sult of a 2014 bomb­ing in the mar­ket that killed 23 peo­ple. “May God de­stroy those who do this,” he said.

Af­ter the re­cent bomb­ings, po­lice swept through many Pash­tun com­mu­ni­ties in Pun­jab and else­where, comb­ing mar­kets and go­ing house to house. Na­tion­wide, more than 100 peo­ple were killed and hun­dreds de­tained as ter­ror­ism sus­pects. Many were said to be Afghans, in­clud­ing a man whom of­fi­cials de­scribed as the “Afghan han­dler” of the La­hore at­tacker.

Mean­while, the army shelled sus­pected mil­i­tant camps on both sides of the bor­der, a rugged re­gion in­hab­ited by Pash­tun tribes that has long served as a shel­ter and stag­ing ground for Is­lamist mili­tias fight­ing both the Afghan and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments.

Last week, af­ter the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion got un­der­way, Pash­tun lead­ers be­gan re­ceiv­ing nu­mer­ous com­plaints of ha­rass­ment, es­pe­cially in Pun­jabi cities such as Rawalpindi that are full of mi­grants and peo­ple dis­placed by fight­ing in the north­west. Res­i­dents said se­cu­rity forces were round­ing up and de­tain­ing Pashto-speak­ing men for no rea­son.

“They were re­ally an­gry af­ter th­ese blasts. They took away my grand­fa­ther and said he didn’t have his iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, but we have been here for many years,” said Ja­mal Khan, 16, who lives in a war­ren of al­leys known as Army Vil­lage. “The el­ders had to rush over and get him out of the po­lice sta­tion.”

Like other Pash­tun neigh­bor­hoods near the city’s vast fruit and veg­etable mar­ket, the nar­row streets of Army Vil­lage were swarm­ing with chil­dren and lined with side­walk stands. The street signs were in Urdu, the dom­i­nant lan­guage of Pak­istan, but the con­ver­sa­tions were all in Pashto.

Many old men had lengthy beards and wore tur­bans; the few women on the streets were cov­ered with bil­low­ing, mocha-col­ored burqas. Some res­i­dents com­plained that troops had en­tered and searched their homes, an af­front to the con­ser­va­tive Pash­tun tra­di­tion in which women are kept se­cluded.

Other com­plaints came from the open-air mar­kets and bazaars where many Pash­tun mi­grants work. In one mar­ket, a cir­cu­lar ap­peared urg­ing peo­ple to re­port any­one who wore Pash­tun dress, spoke Pashto or sold items such as dried fruit. A photo of the no­tice flooded the In­ter­net, and Pun­jab po­lice of­fi­cials fi­nally tweeted that it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate and did not “re­flect po­lice pol­icy.”

As re­ports con­tin­ued to pour in, Pash­tun leg­is­la­tors and other lead­ers spoke up force­fully. On Mon­day, the north­west Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa pro­vin­cial as­sem­bly unan­i­mously passed a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the “racial pro­fil­ing” of Pash­tuns on the pre­text of fight­ing ter­ror­ism. So­cial me­dia were flooded with even harsher crit­i­cism.

“Hun­dreds of Pash­tuns are be­ing ar­rested and ha­rassed in the name of ter­ror­ism,” said Sayed Zaf­fer Shah, a north­west leg­is­la­tor. “We never said all Pun­jabis are ter­ror­ists, though Pun­jabi Tal­iban were in­volved in bomb­ings. This dis­crim­i­na­tion will only spread ha­tred.”

Some crit­ics even raised the specter of fed­eral dis­in­te­gra­tion along eth­nic lines, a highly sen­si­tive sub­ject in Pak­istan. The coun­try was vi­o­lently dis­mem­bered in 1971 af­ter the marginal­ized Ben­gali group se­ceded and the coun­try of Bangladesh was cre­ated.

Protests also came from non-Pash­tun groups. At a protest rally in the north­west city of Peshawar last week, Mush­taq Ah­mad of the Is­lamist Ja­maat-e-Is­lami party de­clared an­grily that “Pash­tuns don’t need any pa­tri­otic cer­tifi­cate from the Pun­jab and Sindh gov­ern­ments. Such hate cam­paigns must stop.”

In Army Vil­lage and other tar­geted com­mu­ni­ties, though, some peo­ple said the raids were al­most rou­tine in ar­eas where many peo­ple are refugees or have no gov­ern­ment iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards. They also sug­gested that the new crack­down was mostly aimed at so­lic­it­ing bribes.

“This has been go­ing on for a long time; it only ac­cel­er­ated af­ter the lat­est blasts,” said a fruit mar­ket worker named Atiqul­lah, 21. His par­ents were Afghan war refugees; he was born in Pak­istan but has no ID card. “When­ever some­thing hap­pens, they pick me up. This time they asked me if I was mak­ing bombs, but they were not se­ri­ous,” he said. “Af­ter two days I gave them $20, and here I am.”


ABOVE: Pak­istani se­cu­rity of­fi­cers check a res­i­dent’s doc­u­men­ta­tion in Rawalpindi, home to many mi­grants and peo­ple dis­placed by fight­ing in the north­west, es­pe­cially Pash­tuns, who are of­ten viewed as sus­pect out­siders. BE­LOW: A fam­ily in a Pash­tun neigh­bor­hood.


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