Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Facebook
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan | Facebook
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From Malala Yousafzai’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai to columnist Mohsin Dawar, Pakistani Pashtuns are saying — ‘I am Pashtun but I am not Taliban’. And these messages are for Prime Minister Imran Khan.

PM Khan has become the centre of controversy over his 24 September statement at the United Nations General Assembly where he said that all the Pashtuns living in Pakistan “had affinity and sympathy with the Afghan Taliban”.

“Then all along the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan – Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt – where no Pakistan army had been there since our independence, people had strong sympathies with the Afghan Taliban, not because of their religious ideology but because of Pashtun nationalism, which is very strong. Then there are three million Afghan refugees still in Pakistan- all Pashtoons, living in the camps…They all had affinity and sympathy with the Afghan Taliban,” Khan had said.

On Monday, MP Mohsin Dawar submitted a resolution in Pakistan’s National Assembly in which he condemned Khan’s remarks at the UN and demanded an apology. In the resolution, Dawar wrote, “The PM’s unfounded and false assertions are an insult to Pashtuns who had suffered the most at the hands of Taliban. Thousand of Pashtuns and Pashtun leaders and political activists have lost their lives to acts of terror perpetrated by the Taliban”

In September, Khan had also drawn controversy over an interview in which he said that the terrorist organisation Haqqani network is a Pashtun tribe living in Afghanistan.

Twitter responds

On Monday, several Twitter users took to social media to denounce Khan’s statement.

Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is the father of Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, wrote, “Let me insist and remind the world: I love peace, democracy, and education. I believe in women’s freedom and equality. I love art and music. I am Pashtun & I love Pakistan.”

Columnist Mohammed Taqi, hit back at Khan by calling the Taliban an “anti-Pashtun project of the Pakistan army”. “Neither is every Pashtun a Talib nor every Talib a Pashtun. Taliban is an Islamist terrorist anti-Pashtun project of the Pakistan army designed and deployed to counter Pashtun nationalism  #PashtunsAreNotTerrorist,” he said.

Criticising the PM for defaming Pakistani Pashtuns, a Twitter user like Shagufta Noorzai tweeted saying, “He (Imran Khan) said that the Pashtun nation attacked the state, so what could be more unfortunate for us now that the Prime Minister of my own country presented me to the world as a terrorist doing.”

Another Twitter user, Nadeem Askar, said, “Shocked at how the puppet PM of Pakistan connecting Taliban with Pashtun. Taliban is a project of Pakistan’s Generals for using against Pashtun nationalism. Stop Pashtun profiling.”

Who are the Pashtuns

Also known as Pushtans, Paktuns or Pathans, the Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. A large number of Pashtuns, who are mostly Sunni Muslims, live in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan province that shares a border with Afghanistan.

A significant number of Pashtuns have also settled in Balochistan, where they comprise up to 20 per cent of the population and a small number live in the highlands of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Several within the Pashto community in Pakistan have often criticised the current dispensation in the country for alleged human rights violations. The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a civil rights group, was founded in 2014 and has since been taking up the cause of the Pashtuns.

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