LAHORE: In a clear display of racial bias, citizens have been asked to report any persons of Pashtun descent to the Punjab police as part of an ongoing crackdown launched against terrorists in the province after the February 13 Mall Road bombing.
Claiming that people belonging to the Pashtun ethnicity are gathering intelligence for terrorist outfits in disguise, the police have warned the public regarding the dangers posed by these ‘suspicious’ characters.
According to the IGP office, the government had directed the Punjab Police to begin an awareness campaign asking the public to report any suspicious persons or activities. The move had been an attempt to utilise public intelligence on the ground to counter possible terrorist threats. However the campaign has fallen through in a whirlwind of ethnic discrimination with the police force singling out Pashtuns by asking people to keep close tabs on them.
The IGP office spokesperson, when speaking to Pakistan Today, has claimed that no specific person, group or ethnicity had been highlighted in their directive which simply asked for increased vigilance through public monitoring. However, upon further inquiry, he did admit that district police departments had, indeed, been asked to have “these people [Pashtuns] checked”.
An example of the Punjab Police’s anti-Pashtun rhetoric was seen in a popularly circulated pamphlet issued by the Mandi Bahaudin police department. The circular asks the public to be extra vigilant and to keep an eye on any persons “appearing to be of Pashtun or Afghan heritage.” It goes on to describe how these suspicious characters could be found working as “tea & dry fruit vendors, and as salesman of children’s toys or household items.”
PRO Mandi Bahaudin, Abdul Rauf, elaborated on the circular saying the directive to act against Pashtuns had come from the Punjab government. He further said that a threat alert had alerted them to possible Pasthun terrorists gathering information for banned outfits whilst disguised as everyday roadside vendors or salesman. He said that the move had been pushed to the extent that announcements had been made in mosques asking people to stay alert regarding any suspicious activity coming from Pashtun quarters. While he said he was not at liberty to give details regarding the success of the campaign, the officer did say the move has “come to fruition already.”