Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), Asif Ghafoor in his latest press conference talked about a lot of subjects. Most of the questions were related to the army’s security related duties, although several delved into the affairs that fell beyond the army’s domain. Mercifully, the DG ISPR did not indulge the reporters who asked for the military’s “comment” on various matters, and reminded them that his mind – like the army’s - is occupied with the tiresome work of protecting the nation from the dangers and threats within and without. The highlight, besides Bajwa Doctrine, of his press conference, was without any doubt his remarks about the Pashtun Tahfuz Movement (PTM) and its leader Manzoor Pashteen.

Rare are the occasions when state and its institutions accept the demands of one minority group as just demands. This happened yesterday when DG ISPR admitted that the demands of the residents of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were based on legitimate concerns. Most importantly, he assured that no foreign agency was driving the indigenous movement forward. While he did spend time defending the military’s actions in the region, his assurance that the ‘just demands’ of the movement will be met is a heartening statement. As the demand for security, dignity and basic rights, is neither unjust nor illegal.

Nonetheless, he did mention the support of Afghan Pashtuns for PTM. While some people may use Ghafoor’s statement out of context to malign the movement, the fact to be kept in mind is that Pashtuns on both sides of the border share many ties. It is not wrong to sympathise with a movement on humanitarian grounds. We need to recall the words of Manzoor Pashteen when he was asked about Afghan President’s tweet in favour of his movement. His reply –that as much as he was happy to receive a heart-warming response from Ghani, so much, so he felt aggrieved for being ignored by the political elite of his own country – speaks volumes of apathy of our political leadership towards the sufferings of tribal people.

Keeping the comments of Asif Ghafoor regarding PTM, and especially his personal impression that Manzoor Pashteen is a bright, energetic youth, should be a clue for all anchors, politicians, and journalists who are linking the PTM with subversive activities of foreign powers against integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. All such attempts are not only malicious but at the same time alienate the people of FATA further. Had there been any link of the movement with foreign powers, military intelligence agencies would have said so explicitly and would not have waited for a second to clamp down on the movement. To put it simply, it is a grassroots movement, not an engineered movement.

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