January issue 2010
Get Up, Stand Up
“At every phase in history, due to its strategic importance, the Pashtun land has been used as a battleground by global powers and their regional allies to perpetuate their economic and strategic interests at the expense of unprecedented miseries and sufferings of the local communities. It is high time that the Pashtuns follow in the footsteps of their forefathers and push for peace and stability in the region by alienating themselves from terrorist organisations, imposed upon them from the outside,” says Idrees Kamal, convenor of the Pashtunkhwa Peace Movement, a representative body of several trade and civil society organisations in the NWFP.
The peace movement was launched in the wake of the deteriorating law and order situation in the region to discourage the killing of innocent people in the name of religion, and to give voice to the plight of the millions who have been caught in the crossfire between the security forces and Taliban militants in Swat Valley and the tribal areas.
The Pashtun-dominated region of Pakistan and Afghanistan is, once again, in the grip of violence and bloodshed. Almost 39 million Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line are confronted with the gigantic task of convincing the world that fault the lies with the policies and the blind pursuit of strategic interests by state and non-state actors and not with the people who laid the foundations of the splendid Gandahara civilisation and spread the message of peace, love and humanity to the world.
The activists of the Pakhtunkhwa Peace Movement have publicly raised their voice by holding protest demonstrations and peace walks against suicide attacks and bomb blasts in different parts of the country when the leaderships of certain political and religious parties have chosen to either remain silent or justify the acts of terrorism as a reaction to the US presence in neighbouring Afghanistan.
“Our aim is to educate the masses by holding panel discussions, conferences and protest demonstrations on issues that affect peace and stability in the region. We want to engage the people in a peacemaking and peace-building process to help them work for a safer future for their coming generations,” says Kamal, adding that for durable peace in the region, it is inevitable that all foreign, non-local and local terrorists groups in FATA be eliminated and those affected be compensated for the losses suffered.
The socio-economic infrastructure of NWFP and FATA has been destroyed due to the war, as a result of which losses in the billions have been incurred by the local population. The peace movement has demanded of the government, time and again, to spend international aid and grants, obtained in the name of fighting terrorism in the war-torn regions, to help the people of these areas.
The movement organised a two-day conference on the prevailing security situation in the region, in Peshawar on December 12-13, 2009. After heated debates on the issue of terrorism, the Peshawar Declaration was issued.
The declaration stated that the root cause of terrorism in the region was the ‘strategic depth’ policy of Pakistan, responsible for the killing and maiming of millions of innocent people in Pakhtunkwa and other parts of Pakistan. The forum, unanimously, demanded the abolition of this policy, which, according to its members, has caused far more financial damage to Pakistan than the NRO, calling also for the architects of the policy to be held accountable.
The conference demanded that Pakistan stop its policy of interference in Afghanistan and accept Afghanistan as a sovereign independent state in the region, which is in the interests of millions of people in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It also condemned the ongoing propaganda by the media and by the so-called political parties and outfits that are active in destabilising the government.
According to Kamal, democracy is a prerequisite of peace and prosperity, and thus, the Peace Movement fully supports the present, democratically elected government and president, and hopes to see both fulfill their constitutional obligations as well as complete their tenure.