IT was no foretelling when from the onset, people called PTM a joint venture of US, India and Afghanistan to serve their ends and purposes. Given conditions, it is a change in method, not the motives. The press conference of DG ISPR on 30 April 2019 where he talked spade to spade about PTM, validated their forethought aptly. Earlier method was by dens of terrorism in FATA, supported by them. On their dismantling as a result of successful military operation by Pakistan, inevitably, change in methodology had to resort to. The runaway terrorists have taken refuge in safe havens in Afghanistan and PTM has been made active to pave way for their return or at least acts of terrorism. It is no wild or farfetched idea rather is based on reason because all their actions point indirectly to this direction and end. A few words about obtaining environment may be in order to set the frame of reference. After decimation of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan along with other developments, countering terrorism is no more number One priority of the US.
It is now fast expanding China economically, politically and militarily along with increasingly becoming aggressive Russia. The CPEC provides to both a shortest and economical opening to world of trade far and wide. This makes adjoining areas along CPEC a place of special interest for US to interrupt their economic activity. FATA is an adjacent area including other peculiar conditions, conducive to terrorism thereby, making it an area of special interest to US with an underlying purpose of keeping the region unstable. The trade hinges on stability and contrarily, instability is inverse of it. In India, US has found a willing accomplice who has exclusive interests of its own to achieve; a foothold in Afghanistan in order to commit Pakistan on two fronts and avail the opportunity to bleed Pakistan by many cuts. The role of Afghanistan is to keep their masters in good humour. With elimination of their earlier proxy TTP, now PTM has been assigned albeit politically to retrieve the situation.
To start with, PTM presented its four demands. One, missing persons be presented before courts. Two, removal of landmines from Pashtun tribal areas. Three, torture and collective punishment against entire village/tribe especially, after a violent event must be stopped. Four, humiliation of locals at Army check posts must be ended. The critical analysis of these in depth would reveal a subtle attempt to create hatred and distance between Army and local people by exploiting sentiments of people who have suffered hardships. Terrorism was the cause of their sufferings, not the military operation. The letter was a necessary remedy however, some problems were bound to crop up in process. Their solution requires understanding and cooperation, not the confrontation. At present, simultaneously Army is leading relief and reconstruction work in tribal areas beyond its designation and also consolidating the gains operationally. To the country, PTM has embarked upon on a colliding course at a critical time.
A couple of days before, COAS, General Bajwa has said while interacting with a group of students in Peshawar that government and security forces are working to address genuine issues of residents of tribal areas regardless of where they come from. For us progress towards enduring peace through socio-economic development comes first. In the task of clearing mines, Army teams have suffered hundred one causalities. Army let those causalities to happen as they happened in line of duty. At the moment, 45% area has been cleared of mines. Given time and space, it is a good job done. The detail of massive relief and reconstruction work undertaken is equally exhilarating. One thing is clearly noticeable that PTM stresses on unchecked movement of people even at expense of removing check posts where Army has suffered many causalities while manning them to check movement of terrorists.
The PTM also opposes fencing of Afghan border as its abetting Afghan government does. From this, it is hard to desist a thought that they want to open ways for movement of terrorists inside these areas from Afghanistan. By an attempt to discredit Pakistan Army in eyes of local people, they intend to induce goodwill for terrorists among the people. One is recognized by the company one keeps. PTM has links with those at home and abroad alike who never miss an opportunity to hit Pakistan under the belt for their vested interests. Their support to PTM is conspicuous. The sources of funding of an organization show its linkages. DG ISPR has enumerated a number of instances of funding to PTM from Afghan NDS and Indian RAW.
There are no free lunches in the world. PTM leadership claims that their main objective is to ensure equal rights to Pakhtuns across the country. They need to know that there is hardly any place in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan where Pakhtuns do not live. They run big businesses/enterprises there. They have messed well. No one could live in harmony with other communities until there is a fellow feeling and two-way traffic. Similar harmonious situation exists in government jobs. PTM’s claims are hollow because these are not home-grown rather foreign instigated and sponsored. Precisely this the reason that in a survey conducted by VOA on the day when DG ISPR laid facts bare about PTM, 89% respondents endorsed DG ISPR.
— The writer, retired Lt Col, is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.