KABUL: Among thousands attended the oath taking ceremony of the president-elect Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Monday in Kabul, including foreign diplomats and the representatives of the international organizations and the neighboring countries, Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders were also invited and warmly welcomed to their native home.
Initially, the Members National Assembly, representing Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were barred on Sunday from taking a flight to Kabul to participate in the oath-taking ceremony.
Ali Wazir said that he and Dawar were scheduled to take a flight from Islamabad International Airport to attend the oath taking ceremony of President Ghani. “But we were shocked to know that my and Dawar’s names were on the Exit Control List (ECL); the immigration officials told us that we cannot take the flight due to the reason,” he said, condemning the move, as quoted by the Pakistani media.
Afghanistan has invited Wazir and Dawar to attend the oath-taking ceremony, along with other activists of the PTM including Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar. “All others including Afrasiab and Bushra left for Kabul, but we were stopped from taking the flight, which is deplorable,” he said.
Dawar took to the twitter soon after he and his aide was denied taking the flight to Kabul. “Sending best wishes to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on his re-election & thanks to all the Afghans who invited us and those who were waiting to welcome. Also, thanks to the Afghan Ambassador in Pakistan Atif Mashal for his efforts to resolve this issue,” he twitted.
“We are going back as we were not allowed to fly to Kabul. FIA told us quite explicitly that the military has barred us from leaving the country. This is what elected Pashtun MNAs have to go through in Pakistan. This is the fate of an elected Pashtun representative in Pakistan,” he stated in another tweet.
But soon after the activists’ tweets, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan allowed the PTM leaders and legislators Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir to attend the oath-taking ceremony in Kabul.
In a tweet, Special Assistant to the PM on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the two parliamentarians were stopped by FIA. The matter was reported to the prime minister who instructed the Ministry of Interior to grant one-time permission to both the leaders to travel to Kabul.
“Finally Reached Kabul! Wanted to express my gratitude to President @ashrafghani for delaying his oath taking for the arrival of @Aliwazirna50 and myself. Overwhelmed by the welcome we have received here. Wishing a peaceful future for Afghanistan and the region,” Dawar tweeted.
The Afghan government eased their departure of the Ambassador Mashal and the PTM leaders from Torkham by a helicopter to Kabul.
A massive welcome was given to them upon their arrival to the ceremony, as thousands of the attendees stood and clapped for them to praise their stance.
“We couldn’t sit, everyone at the ceremony started to give a big hand for them, as they are still suffering from oppression by the military establishment in Pakistan,” a participant of the oath taking ceremony, Rahmatullah Noori said.
But the Pakistani media continued to criticize PTM leaders travel to Afghanistan, linking their visit to NDS and RAW supports.
“PTM leaders Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir received special protocol by Afghanistan National Army upon their arrival to Kabul where they had landed to attend oath-taking ceremony of newly-elected President Ashraf Ghani,” Radio Pakistan tweeted. The radio station also said that both PTM leaders Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir facilitating anti-Pakistan forces to destabilize Pakistan and fulfilling vested agenda of India through Afghanistan.
However, PTM leaders condemned Pakistani media’s low-level reporting. “Shocked at this low level of reporting from @RadioPakistan. Why should our State feel threatened by this welcome given to the MNAs from Waziristan? This shows strong bonds between Pashtuns on both sides of Durand Line. That is something to build upon, if regional peace is a priority,” Dawar lashed out in tweet.
Meanwhile, a member of the provincial assembly of North Waziristan, Mir Kalam Wazir strongly condemned Radio Pakistan for twitting hatred against Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, saying “This is how state machinery is used against Pashtuns & other minorities who speak for their constitutional rights & challenges the undemocratic forces running affairs of state.
Afghans believe that Pakistani military establishment has been afraid of the close ties between the Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand Line and has been sparing no efforts to prevent Pashtuns of Khaybar Pakhtunkhwa from travelling to Afghanistan.
“Punjab never want strong bond among Pashtuns on both sides of the Durand line. PTM leaders making effort to reveal Punjabis oppressions and human rights violations, where Afghans do the same as we still suffering from the state-sponsored terrorism and barbarism,” Afghan political analyst Aziz Ahmad Tassal told The Kabul Times, adding that Pakistani military establishment was afraid of unity among the two nations, as according to him, ISI sees Pashtuns’ call for justice as the biggest nightmare.
“Pakistani military imposing censor on PTM’s calls for justice via their puppet media which is indeed a clear crime against freedom of expression,” he added, saying Pashtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were trying to get rid of oppression and continued violence.
PTM alleges grave human rights violations by Pakistan’s military against Pashtuns in the country’s northwest. It says that Pashtuns have been the target of violence at the hands of both the Taliban and the Pakistani military for two decades.
The movement claims that the military has killed innocent civilians in its operations against the Pakistani Taliban, and that it needs to answer for “missing persons.” It also contends that Pashtuns are regularly harassed at checkpoints and treated with suspicion, and that landmines continue to make their lives insecure.
“The Pakistani state has given more voice to terrorists than it has to this group. The country also engaged in talks with the Pakistani Taliban before beginning the Zarb-e-Azb operation against them in 2014. Yet for the state to silence the PTM more than it did terrorists is not surprising either, because a non-violent protest movement calling the army’s integrity into question may threaten the army’s legitimacy in Pakistan in a way the TTP never did,” a Kabul-based journalist Yama Alimi said.
Despite of continued arrests of the PTM leaders, the movement activists saying they have “nothing more to lose” and will continue to protest. But it is also clear from Pashteen’s and the other protesters’ arrests that the state will continue to repress it. The PTM’s allegations are all gravely serious, and if true, would be a damning indictment of the state’s malintent toward its own citizens. Afghan leaders have time and again said that Pakistan’s military has always guarded itself against accountability, in particular when the country was asked for cooperation with militants, especially open and secret supports to Taliban. In recent months, Pakistan’s civil-military scales and even some media have tipped further in favor of the military. The real question is: How far will the military go to repress PTM and prevent unity among Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Durand Line.