World saw the policy of creating proxies as an essential tool of statecraft during era of Cold War۔ Countries sitting on the opposing sides of capitalism and communism engineered proxies in return for lucrative aids from big powers. In this slide, Pakistan was no exception but it did something altogether different melding violent form of religion with state produced many costs. A war perpetuated by the toxic mix of religion and patriotic zealotry was sponsored at the cost of forcing the tales of death and destruction on specific ethnicity, The Pashtuns. Strategic plan was made by deep state on the whim for a tactical success and meanwhile, territorial integrity of Pashtuns land was left at the mercy of irreconcilable terrorists.
On one hand, Pashtuns were pacified through the cover of victimhood while at the same time, they were shown to the world as if they were irreconcilable religious demons. We have all reasons to comment that no any other ethnicity in contemporary world has ever suffered this sort of dilemma: condition of being both victimized and demonized by ‘ own ‘ state.
Tied to exploitation is always an immediate reaction either in the form of impulse or a systematic movement. While the proxy war in Afghanistan was gaining the traction, nationalist parties like PKMAP and ANP voiced concerns of their constituents authoritatively but with little to show. Reason behind this failure in preventing spread of radicalism can be traced to the centuries-old roots of religious bigots who have always been eager to meekly work as subcontractors of war in return for power and pelf. However, blaming others without self-inspection is escapism which worsens problems, let alone improve them. Ethnically preferential parties, working in any part of the globe, grow with the twin principles of leadership and broad-based indoctrination of youth. Obscuring these principles, Pashtun ethno-nationalist parties relied on the hidebound structure out of fear of being subdued by rational and progressive youth who, if ranked to key positions, would dissociate nationalism from the spirit of glorifying past at the cost of ignoring future . This very fear was not reasonless. ANP, for example , today credits itself for being a progressive platform of educating youth. Though it performed well in the area of recruiting new leadership, yet there came a terrible loss collateral to this progression. Youth of KP now considers ‘history and race’ an irrelevant mix of concepts and looks down on arm-chaired nationalists who frequently recount
examples from historical accords. It was this broader change that cost ANP dearly in terms of electoral victory as against PTI.
Very few know that nationalism and mantra of openness can’t coexist properly. Rationalism is the veiled enemy of nationalism. It grows in minds belittling the place of history, culture and race in hearts. ANP is the benchmark of this new but costlier trend. While PKMAP, truth be told , has failed in dovetailing politics with pushes and pulls of contemporary world. If both these parties are failing in holding the line, then what is the way-out? Should these parties be treated like a fossil under the weight of new unstructured movements like PTM? There are many question-markers on the role of Pashtun nationalist parties but these have proved their worth in more conditions than any of their alternatives. PKMAP has done well in preserving the concept of Pashtun nationalism characterised by the slogan of ‘Lar aw Bar ‘ . ANP has been prolific in terms of imparting education to youth through different projects like Bacha khan Education foundation.
It remains to be seen that how Pashtun nationalist parties will keep their existence relevant in Pashtun society. But we can’t discuss this debate indefinitely. If these parties peter out in parliamentary politics, it will be a greater loss for the struggle of constitutionalism in a federal state. Therefore, when examining the challenges that lie ahead for nationalist parties, it becomes necessary to understand the limitations and chances of improvement.
Suhail Khan Mandokhel