Original Articles

An agenda for Pakhtuns in Pakistan – by Baryal Utmanzai

Pakhtun Leadership (both politicians and civil society) should stand with any one who helps them achieve for Pakhtunkhwa a complete and unadulterated regional autonomy. Without such an autonomy, Pakhtuns are doomed to social, cultural and economic slavery.

Centralized State

The current structure of Pakistani state is highly centralized, which demands its diverse nationalities to forget about their respective identities and adopt the “Pakistani identity”, which in effect is Punjabi identity at the cost of the smaller nationalities.

Prospects for Pakhtun leadership

The Pakhtun Leadership should stick to its guns and should not compromise on the following:

A new constitution – to replace the current highly centralised one – which provides for all powers to the regions except defence, foreign affairs and currency. These three subjects should be administered by a governing board consisting of equal membership from Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab and Pakhtunkhwa.

The issue of “national language” must be resolved. Pashto, Punjabi, Baluchi and Sindi should be declared as national languages.

Foreign Policy goals: The Pakhtun Leadership should insist on the formulation of a foreign policy which reflects the aspirations of all the four major nationalities. The current foreign policy, the one in which the US, India and Afghanistan are the enemies, does not reflect the perceptions and choices of all the nationalities inhabiting Pakistan. Have we ever considered the question whether the Pashtuns and Baluch consider these countries as enemies? Or are enemies imposed on them? Therefore, a truly representative body of all the Pakistani nationalities should sit together and decide on friends and enemies.

Appointment of Provincial Governors: Another issue that the Pakhtun Leadership should take up with the “centre” is the issue of appointment of provincial governors and bureaucrats by Islamabad. Such a practice is against the spirit of federalism and Pakhtuns’ national dignity. Pakhtun Leadership should insist on discontinuation of this practice. Under the current dispensation, the “centre” interferes with the internal affairs of the different Pakistani nationalities. Therefore, this practice should be discarded forthwith.

Proportion in Parliament: The current (1973) constitution allows the more populous province to dominate the federal parliament. Members to the all-powerful national assembly are elected on the basis of population. Punjab having 56 percent of the population, dominates the federal parliament and has the power of veto in legislation. This breeds hostility among smaller nationalities and the Pakhtun Leadership should insist on discarding the system under a new constitutional arrangement. It should advocate Pashtuns’ right of national equality in the national assembly. In a country like Pakistan, which is inhabited by diverse nationalities with different population figures, the parliament should reflect equality of nationalities (as opposed to equality of individuals). The simple democratic principle of one-man-one-vote cannot be applied in federations like Pakistan where the smaller nationalities are very sensitive to domination by the larger one. Therefore, the larger nationality – Punjabi –  must agree to giving up its claim to membership in parliament on the basis of population in favor of the principle of the equality of nationalities. This it should do for the sake of the solidarity and national integrity of Pakistan. The smaller nationalities – Punjab must know – will never care for the “solidarity and national integrity” of a Pakistan which is dominated by Punjab.

Defense Budget: Another crucial issue which needs to be actively pursued by the Pakhtun Leadership is that of defence budget. It should insist that the new constitution provides for a parliamentary committee with equal number of members from all the Pakistani nationalities to decide on the size of defence budget. The current high defence budget is based on unilateral enemies, mythical and wrong threat perceptions which are determined mainly by the dominant Punjabi nationality, and is not sustainable. Once the threat perceptions and enemies are determined by a representative committee, that will automatically reduce the current “threat” levels and will enable to reduce the current un-realistic defence budgets.

Scholarships by the Army: The Pakhtun Leadership should take-up the issue of brain-washing of Pakhtun children by the Pakistani military in the name of “scholarships”. The army has recently started a drive in which they select bright Pakhtun boys and enlist them in various schools run by the army in order to brainwash them into accepting the islamist-paki narrative. The aim of this drive is to make these children forget about their real identity and adopt the manufactured “paki identity” which demands that they accept a monolithic centralized state with its ideology as islam, language Urdu and identity “pakistani identity”. The Pakhtun Leadership needs to take this issue up at the highest level and reclaim the lost Pashtun siblings who are the future of the Pakhtun nation.

Representation in Institutions: In the present highly centralized state of Pakistan, all the federal institutions are overwhelmingly staffed by the Punjabi ethnic group. These include the armed forces including navy, army and air force, the autonomous commissions including public service commission and the election commission, media institutions including Pakistan television, radio Pakistan and electronic media regulatory authority, think thanks including the Institute of Regional Studies, Policy Research Institute and Institute of Strategic Studies etc etc. The Pakhtun Leadership needs to do everything in its powers to make sure that Pashtuns get a fair share of employment in all federal organizations.

Public Offices: The high federal offices including President of Pakistan, Prime Minister, Chief of armed forces, judges of supreme court, presiding officers of senate and national assembly, chairmen of federal autonomous institutions, ambassadors and consul generals etc etc are far too often occupied by ethnic Punjabis or muhajirs. The Pakhtun Leadership needs to emphasise that the new constitution provides for an equitable representation for the Pashtuns in all these offices. The matter of making the offices of president, prime minister, chiefs of armed forces, judges of supreme court rotational, needs to be taken-up by the Pashtun leadership with the “centre”, so as Pashtuns can hold these offices for equal number of years as any other Pakistani nationality.

Representation in Foreign Offices: Apart from ambassador or a consul-general in a foreign mission, a host of lower-level officials work in embassies and consulates. It is noticed by (Pakistani) Pashtun diaspora that they very rarely see any ethnic Pashtun in Pakistani embassies and consulates in foreign countries. These officials either belong to Punjab or they are Muhajirs (immigrants from India). These employees draw salaries in dollars according to international standards. The Pashtun leaders and intelligentsia needs to focus on this issue and make moves towards achieving for Pashtuns adequate share of jobs in foreign missions.

Financial resources: Economics is the backbone of any nation. The Pashtun leadership must focus on achieving for Pashtuns its fundamental right of taxing its own people and complete control over its own resources. The Pakhtun should reclaim its fundamental right of setting its own economic agenda and how to deal with its natural resources.

Control over Security Agencies: The Pakhtuns should insist that the new constitution bans the movement of federal secret services or military personnel without the permission of regional government. The supervision, code of conduct and control of such movements should strictly be under the control of regional governments.

Pakhtuns territorial integrity: Pakhtun leadership should insist that the new constitution brings to an end the division of Pakhtuns into  Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Baluchistan, the districts of Mianwali, Attock and Dera Ghazi Khan in Punjab, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and amalgamate the same into a single autonomous entity within the Pakistani federation. This division has no sense whatsoever. It just engenders feelings of hatred among Pakhtuns towards the Pakistani federation.

Education: Nations risk downfall without proper education, an education with roots in its own history and identity. Therefore, the Pashtun leaders need to focus on education. it needs to develop a curriculum that is taught in Pashto and that reflects its national identity. Pashtun children need to be taught about their history, culture and heroes. The present education system which is administered by the “centre” has played havoc with Pashtun identity, culture, history and heroes, at the cost of others’ identities. The current education system is deliberately designed so as Pashtun children hate their heroes, history, language and culture – in effect, hating themselves – without knowing it. This has already done a lot of damage to Pashtun nationhood. Pashtun leadership need to take urgent steps to first stop this dangerous phenomenon and subsequently reverse it, to finally be replaced by a true “Pashtun education system”.

Provision to prevent Unconstitutional rule: Pashtuns should insist on inclusion of a provision in the new constitution which provides for an automatic dissolution of the Paki federation in the event of imposition of unconstitutional rule (martial law, emergency etc)  by the military or civilians.

Conclusion: To conclude with, Pashtun politicians and intellectual need to come together and save Pashtun nation from extinction. They need to tell their other co-nationalities and the “centre” in the Pakistani federation that their willingness to live together with the in Pakistani federation does not mean that they are willing to allow the extinction of Pakhtun values, identity and economic interests. They should make it clear to the “centre” that their willingness to be participant in Pakistani federation is conditional upon the growth and development of their own identity, culture and language, and the security of economic interests. Anything less than that – they should tell the “centre” – will push them to seek parting ways with the Pakistani federation.

FOOTNOTE: Let us make no mistake: Pakistan army – if it is given a choice – will prefer to hand-over Pakistan to Islamist militants than allow regional autonomy to Pakhtuns (this process seems to have already started given the ascendency of the many islamist lashkars in Punjab under the very nose of army.) Therefore, the challenge to Pakhtuns is formidable, but the stakes are very high. They do not have the choice to fail, for failure in this crucial struggle for them means death as a nation. They indeed face the proverbial “do or die” situation.

Baryal Utmanzai is a freelance writer, he can be contacted at baryalutmanzai@gmail.com.

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  • Pakistani military offering “scholarships” to Pakthun children? hmmm

    in addition to the madrassah scholarships?

  • Asking for one’s rights is not treason or being unpatriotic. The killings of Pashtuns by terrorists doesn’t even make headlines anymore. Recent bomb blasts in Matani and Nowshera are good examples.
    The current setting where Pashtuns are divided into FATA and the settled areas… doesn’t do justice to the people of KPK.
    Half the population is not counted and it suits the establishment to keep it that way… because adding FATA to KPK will increase the population numbers of KPK, hence giving them a higher number of seats in the national assembly and giving them a bigger voice and bigger share of the country’s GDP. Because our assembly seats are still allocated just on the basis of population in a province only.
    This setup gives Punjab an unfair advantage, a bigger voice and a bigger share of the resources. In fact majority of the seats in assembly are from Punjab, so they have a bigger say in what goes on in the country.

    The FATA should become a part of KPK , because they use provincial resources like hospitals, educational institutions,etc anyway, pay no taxes and can’t vote as individuals. They are a part of Pakistan but not really? Either they are a part of Pakistan and governed by Pakistan or they are not….this inbetween status doesn’t make sense to me….. And by becoming part of settled areas it will also get rid of a sanctuary for the extremists and thugs and criminals hiding in there and taking advantage of the fact that the Pakistani law enforcement agencies have no say in FATA.
    The majority of FATA people are living homeless in tent villages while their property and homes are being re settled with Talibans especially the ones from Punjab are repopulating the area. It is a concerted effort and a long term plan of the establishment to re populate the areas with Pakistan’s proxy warriors and give them a sanctuary and get rid of local leadership so the locals don’t have a voice any more.
    The leadership and elders of the tribal areas have systematically been eliminated for years now. Who has come up with such long term plan who are the people behind this strategy? They want establishment friendly voiceless people living in this geopolitically strategic place, called FATA.
    A genocide is going on and nobody is saying anything about it…. People are homeless in their own home land…..
    I might sound like a conspiracy theorist but i can’t come with any other answers when i see what is going on in the tribal areas…maybe i am wrong …but it all doesn’t make sense to me that why kill the leadership… one leader and one elder at a time and it is mostly happening to the Pashtun leaders and elders and peace committee members only, it looks like they are following some long term plan…God knows what….
    One other thing that bothers me is that till date the Govt has never busted a single terrorist cell or group or prosecuted someone for terrorism in our country.KPK is a war zone and the media keeps saying that Pakistan is doing fine and it is going strong, nothing is wrong we just need midterm elections!

  • Bringing Tribal Areas into the mainstream- Sharmila Farooqi

    Competency affects every aspect of one’s life from the protection of human rights to food security. Governance is more than just “government,” it includes everything from an impartial and efficient judicial system to school and healthcare. The efficiency and performance of a government is judged from the services it delivers to the masses. In fact, a government can claim legitimacy only if it fulfils the wishes of the people. Democracy is all about honouring the wishes of the people. This is the fundamental principle of the present people’s government of Pakistan. Te government has delivered on each and every front. From Balochistan package to Gilgit-Baltistan and NFC award, it has delivered on all planks. Bringing Tribal Areas into the mainstream of national life is enshrined in the manifesto of the PPP government. The conversion of Kala Dhaka from tribal area to a settled district is the first step towards that end. The people of FATA had long been denied their basic rights. They were given step-motherly treatment. The FCR is obnoxious to all recognised modern principles governing the dispensation of justice. In fact it was an instrument of subjugation introduced by the British to prolong their colonial rule. The ills of denial are obvious in the form of large segments of the population joining the ranks of the terrorists.

    Reforms package is a watershed in the history of the Tribal Areas as it envisaged fundamental reforms to transform the status of these areas. It aimed at granting 3.5 million people of the area the fundamental political and legal rights by extending the Political Parties Act and making necessary amendments in the Frontiers Crimes Regulation (FCR), the draconian law of the colonial era.

    The reforms are comprehensive as they would encourage political diversity, enhance economic opportunity, and guarantee civil and political rights in the region. Institutions in FATA had become increasingly dysfunctional. As a result of these reforms, political parties would be allowed to function in these areas. The reforms would curtail the arbitrary powers of arrest and detention of the citizens under Frontiers Crimes Regulation. People will be enjoying the right to appeal before an appellate tribunal which will be set up for this purpose. The notorious collective responsibility clause of FCR, under which even women and children were not absolved from punishment, would stand dissolved.

    Since assuming power the people’s government is committed in bringing the Tribal Areas, federal as well as provincial in to the mainstream of national life. The transformation of Kala Dhaka from Provincially Administered Tribal Area to a settled district as well as the FATA reforms package is a historic opportunity to the people of the region as they will become the masters of their own fate. The militant’s grip in the area will be weakened and people will be relieved from the monster of terrorism. The federal government has shown its resolve to help the provincial government in the implementation of a special package. The transformation of Kala Dhaka from tribal area into a settled district is a landmark achievement of the government.

    The Musharraf government followed a military-based strategy in the area. The component of political and social development of the area was missing in the strategy. The announcement of the reforms package would bridge the missing link of political reforms making FATA strategy more comprehensive and integrated. The traditional politico-administrative structure, whose main component was the absolute power of the political agent, would be overhauled. The reforms would marginalise and weaken the power of militants in the area. Kala Dhaka is the 25th district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a population of 0.5 million. Under Article 246 of the constitution; the president has the power to change the status of any tribal area. It has now become a part of the settled areas of the province. Kala Dhaka will be enjoying the same facilities that are available to other settled areas in the province. Both the provincial and federal government should now take special interest in the uplift and development of Kala Dhaka. It will go a long way in addressing the problems of the masses. The 4 billion announced by Chief Minister for the uplift of the region is an encouraging move in this regard. With the improvement of security situation, reforms would be introduced in the Tribal Areas through enforcement of Political Parties Act and suitable amendment to the Frontier Crimes Regulation.

    The demand for reforms in FATA is long-standing. In terms of physical and social infrastructure and economic and political development the people of FATA have lagged behind those of the settled areas of the country. All the mainstream political parties, civil society organisations and human rights groups have endorsed the reforms in FATA. No initiative was taken in the past 60-years by any government to bring these areas into the mainstream. The reforms package announced by the people’s government would fundamentally revamp the century old political and judicial structure of the area. If implemented in letter and spirit, the package will change the lot of the region having far-reaching implications for the whole country. The reforms would fulfil the aspirations of the people of the Tribal Areas. It will usher in a new era of political and social development.

    The writer is secretary Information of the Women Wing of PPP Sindh

  • For All problems of Pakistan t
    There is one solution divide
    Punjab and create more
    Provinces and it is not true
    That pakhtun has any problem
    From Army or Punjab. Pakhtun
    Loves Pakistan. Pakhtun
    Are now civilized they are
    Are free from khans and they
    Don’t want to follow leaders
    Blindly and now they are
    Familiar with democracy and
    Time will show the pakhtun
    Will be the Future leaders
    Of Pakistan, Zindabad pakistanpainda bad

  • You have wrote an excellent article for prosperity of Pashtun. It is infact a guideline for Pashtun sincere leaders who can draw their efforts in light your this article. Yes Your are right, we the Pashtun are being used by Paki establishment, US, UK, Arab and Iran in the name of Islam and Religion. We are now once more troubling in the same conditions. We are now using by ISI, Iran, Arab World, China and US in the name of Islam. Our schools and HOuses are destroyed. we are divided into five parts in Pakistan. We are arrested and humiliated in the name of terrorists and we are also involved in terrorist attacks and traninigs just by these enemies. We should to wakeup to encounter all our enemies…

  • why i accept that Pakistan who is even not ready to give me my identity. They (Punjabi) were even not ready to accept my Name Pashtunkhwa. I have been divided into five parts in Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber pashtunkhwa, FATA etc just to eliminate my majority and Population. I have been exploited by Punjab for last 60 years. How could I accept that Pakistan where I have no presentation in their Curriculum and there is no chapter on my Leaders like Bacha Khan, Abdul Samad Khan, Ghani Khan. Even my heroes are called agent of India and Afghanistan and they were renamed as enemy in the Pakistan studies… I would Never Accept this Pakistan If they are not ready to give me the equal status as Like Punjabi and Muhajar have. Up to whom I Begged from Punjab… Up to Whom the whole culture of this country being dominated by Punjabies… I would never Say Pakistan Zindabad if I would not been given the equal Status… of Power and Education etc…

  • Mr. baryal’s thesis is made of assumption and mistrust of the institutions. he has predict the extinction of Pakhtunas as a nation and a regional power . all tgis talk is rubbish and means nothing. The coercion of State if any sould be apparent in this case . We see no signs of that in case of Pakhtunas. If there is any threat its internal threat. The traditional forces o[[osed todevelopment and progress are the reason for their backward ness. they can not blame army. The armed forces of Pakistamn are a professional force. There is no Islamist soldoers that have control pver Army. And the army does not interfere in states or regional affairs. they have a task to do, and they are doing it admirably. Pakhtuns are represented in all the forces. They have never been neglected and givrm their due share in the promotios.

    The education has been neglected by the provincial government. They should make efforts to accelerate the rate pf literacy in Pakhtuns. we are all for their education , and progress. The writer should desist from sgch negative and basless allegations against the central government , and create harmony at all levels of governance. we support the autonomy of all the provinces wuthin the federation. a strong federation can ensure provincial autonomy. No oe has been dictating or imposing their will upon Pashtuns. lat us live in harmony and peace. we are all brethers in faith.


  • arent in this case . We see no signs of that in case of Pakhtunas. If there is any threat its internal threat. The traditional forces o[[osed todevelopment and progress are the reason for their backward ness. they can not blame army. The armed forces of Pakistamn are a professional force. There is no Islamist soldoers that have control pver Army. And the army does not interfere in states or regional affairs. they have a task to do, and they are doing it admirably. Pakhtuns are represented in all the forces. They have never been neglected and givrm their due share in the promotios.

    The education has been neglected by the provincial government. They should make efforts to accelerate the rate pf literacy in Pakhtuns. we are all for their education , and progress. The writer should desist from sgch negative and basless allegations against the central government , and create harmony at all levels of governance. we support the autonomy of all the provinces wuthin the federation. a strong federation can ensure provincial autonomy. No oe has been dictating or imposing their will upon Pashtuns. lat us live in harmony and peace. we are all brethers in faith.