US Experts Point Out 2 New Political Movements In Pak

Pakistan has seen the emergence of two major new political movements — Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) — but both have had different experiences from the public and the government.

PTM is a civil society group comprising mainly of ethnic Pashtuns living in Pakistan’s tribal areas, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, and parts of Karachi. Meanwhile, TLP is a religious political party.

According to an article titled ‘In Pakistan, a Tale of Two Very Different Political Movements’ by Michael Kugelman and Adam Weinstein published in Lawfare, an American blog, while both the PTM and TLP has managed to attract thousands to their rallies, the views, experiences and likely trajectories of the two political movements could not be more different.

With regard to the PTM, the Pakistan state has always been harsh. Though initially, the government would resort to arrest and placing travel restrictions on the PTM leaders and supporters, from 2019 under Imran Khan government the PTM protesters were being killed, it noted.

“In May 2020, PTM leader Ali Wazir’s brother Arif Wazir was gunned down in South Waziristan. And on December 16, Ali Wazir was arrested in the city of Peshawar after being accused of “criminal conspiracy” and making ‘derogatory remarks against state institutions’,” it said.

Meanwhile, TLP, which was formed long before the PTM, “has not experienced nearly the amount of backlash that the PTM has suffered in the last three years”.

According to Lawfare, “The main reason for this discrepancy is that TLP’s signature enjoys much more support countrywide than the PTM’s. Support for the religious blasphemy laws, which are ingrained in Pakistan’s legal framework, has been at a mainstream position among the Pakistani public for decades.”

Meanwhile, the PTM calls for “greater rights for Pashtuns–an ethnic community that faces considerable discrimination in parts of Pakistan” and also criticises the Pakistan Army in a “withering, even violent, fashion”.

According to the authors, the biggest critics of PTM are the urban Pashtuns, who hold senior posts in Pakistan’s military and government. They claim that the Pashtuns are not “marginalized by the state”.

Moreover, the PTM’s critics have named the group as an “unacceptable and treacherous threat” for making statements like “We urge the soldiers to disobey the generals … they will get you killed for their dirty games” by PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen.

Citing another reason for the difference in perception of the public towards PTM and TLP, the authors said, “Explanation to account for the differing experiences of the PTM and TLP in Pakistan is simple: The former is perceived as a greater threat by the powers that be. The PTM directs sharply worded criticism of the military, an institution that is not accustomed to such treatment. TLP, conversely, focuses its vitriol on religious minorities and alleged blasphemers. Its messaging rarely attacks the state directly.”

Despite such criticisms, the authors highlighted that “it is the political fault lines around ethnic Pashtuns who strongly support the PTM that arguably worry the Pakistani state the most”. This is mainly due to the support given by Afghan Pashtun figures, including from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

On the future of Pakistan amid the presence of PTM and TLP, the authors have noted, “Despite performing poorly at the polls, religious parties will continue to influence Pakistan’s laws and public life by building coalitions, allying with mainstream political parties and, when necessary, wielding influence from the streets. Many of these groups are happy to work within the framework of Pakistan’s constitution and view themselves as embracing democracy, albeit an illiberal version.”

“Ethnic discontent will also continue to simmer but is unlikely to boil over into mass revolt or garner much sympathy outside a few liberal circles,” the authors added. (ANI)

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