Pashtun Sit-In Ends

The protest over the extrajudicial killing of Naqeeb Mehsood soon transformed in a sit-in of the tribesmen seeking remedy for gross injustices done to them while the state carried military operations on their lands. Now that the ten days long sit-in has ended, a few words on the response of electronic media and suggestions to the government would not harm anyone.

First and most peculiar was the appalling response of electronic media to the sit-in of the tribesmen. The mainstream media covered very little of the demands made at the sit-in. It’s quite ironic that media channels gave all day night coverage to Khadim Hussain’s irrational and abusive sit-in, but didn’t find the sit-in over Naqeeb’s murder worthy of coverage. The lack of coverage to the peaceful sit-in of the Pashtun tribesmen is nothing but a gross display of indifference to the plight of ethnic minorities.

The government could have asked the media to cover the sit-in, which it did not. The indifference shown to the demands of the tribal people through this way can further marginalise the already disenfranchised tribal people. While some may argue that the PM given the guarantee to the Mehsud tribe to deliver justice to the victim’s family is sufficient. In fact, it is not. For this latest sit-in demanded more than mere justice for Naqeeb and his family.

The sit-in was in itself a first-hand report of injustices done to the people of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is a no-go area for independent and investigative journalists. Had the media given considerable coverage to the tribal sit-in, the government would have become well aware of the demands of the tribesmen. Second, the sit-in was also a protest against landmines that have left scores of children and elders disabled. According to Ameer Muqam, the PM had issued directives to remove deadly mines from the tribal areas. Appreciable. But the directions should translate into swift actions.

Third, the issue of forceful disappearances is not limited to Balochistan only, as the sit-in has revealed. The state needs to look into the matter on urgent basis. Picking up people is not a solution to counter terrorism. Instead, it will force the people of the region to adopt the course of militancy against the state. If the government fails to cater the demands of the tribal people, the chances are that the militancy will take up the form of militant ethnic nationalism. Pakistan cannot afford militant nationalism across its western side. Therefore, the state needs to not only give justice to Naqeeb’s family but also meet out the other demands of the sit-in without any ifs and buts.

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