Praying to the God of Missing Things | Pakistan Today

Praying to the God of Missing Things

  • Antithesis of a free, democratic republic

In the past few days, you may have noticed the ground trembling mysteriously beneath your feet. You may have heard of Naqeebullah Mesud on social media. You may even have seen pictures of Pashtun crowds mobilising somewhere – marching, chanting, demanding things.

You could be excused for believing that this has all been happening on a different planet. Mainstream media has been suspiciously – or worse, scandalously – silent on the subject. “Today, I feel ashamed as a journalist for the media blackout”, tweeted Mubashir Zaidi. Ayesha Siddiqa lamented the establishment’s dictatorial control over our media and academia.

The march is brought up at times, because surely you can’t brush 60,000 men, women and children under a Peshawari rug without leaving a great big lump for the nation to trip over. But where this issue has been discussed, it’s been reported unenthusiastically as a large mass of ‘Allah-jaane’ who, demanding ‘Allah-jaane’ what. It’s because what these people are demanding is borderline ‘treasonous’, as defined by the growingly violent and unscrupulous establishment.

While conducting my research on the subject, I have not been surprised by the fact that there’s more detail on the Pashtun resistance on international news sources than there is on Pakistani outlets. Al-Jazeera ran a comprehensive interview of Pashtun leader Manzoor Pashteen, who’s cognizant of the libel against him. “Raw agent”. “Afghan agent”. “Anti-Pakistan”.

Pictures are surfacing all over Pakistani social media of Pashtun mothers carrying photographs of their missing children. Videos are popping up of elderly Pashtun men, speaking about how their loved ones go missing

The average Pakistani is continually shocked to hear that our political progress did not stop after we attained independence from the British in 1947. There were, and still are, many political problems to overcome; many disenfranchised segments of the society to empower; much inequality to be corrected. It is perhaps because of this that they feel surprised when Pashtun people demand recognition of the crimes against them by the state, and immediately accuse the protesters of being part of a fantastically elaborate conspiracy.

The baseline assumption is that the military establishment can do no wrong, and all conspiracies involving RAW, Mossad, Afghan intelligence, Hindus, Zionists, “Qadiyanis”, Illuminati, Dajjal, and flying saucers branch out from that assumption. When activists protesting military unaccountability and suppression by the state suddenly disappear, who could possibly be responsible for that disappearance? Aliens, I bet.

The fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters of the disappeared tend to think differently. Applying Occam’s Razor, they deduce that the simplest answer is the most probable; and their missing loved ones have likely been taken by those whom they criticised the most.

If this is a law and order situation, then the method of correction must fall within the constitutional framework. This is not a fascist state, though some of the policies cast doubt on that assertion. We have a right to non-violent protest. We have a right to a fair trial. We have a right to know who arrested our loved ones and where they’re being held. We have a right to not be humiliated and harassed at military checkposts.

For the time being, many of these Pashtun citizens seem to lack not only the right to this crucial information, but the right to the physical remains of their missing loved ones who are being presumed dead.

Pictures are surfacing all over Pakistani social media of Pashtun mothers carrying photographs of their missing children. Videos are popping up of elderly Pashtun men, speaking about how their loved ones go missing, and officers of the establishment demand large sums of money for information on their whereabouts. All of this may not be entirely true, but it is true enough to energise thousands of people now spilling into the streets of Peshawar.

The Islamonationalist propaganda against Pashtun protesters is nearly always dripping with racism and xenophobia. No, “Pathans” are not inherently aggressive or unintelligent, contrary to what your schizotypal uncle says on that Whatsapp family group. In fact, a non-violent protest of this scale demands a great deal of patience and exceptional organisational skills. Invite your uncle to put 60,000 people on the street to protest Illuminati, Freemasons, or whatever mythical power center he tends to blame.

Enforced disappearances are the antithesis of a free, democratic republic. Pashtun march is an energised, long over-due movement against state unaccountability. It’s an assault on tyranny. Above all it is a collective prayer to the Almighty, who watches over the seen as well as the unseen.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat is a medical doctor from Rawalpindi and an ardent traveller who writes frequently about science, social politics and international relations.