The Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement is bringing to head a series of uncomfortable truths powerfully, publicly, and non-violently. Pakistan is 220 million souls, of which 70% are under the age of 30. PTM represents that demographic. Currently, our political-economic power interests and voices do not. More importantly, discrimination and disenfranchisement on the basis of power has become the norm in Pakistan. The PTM has rejected this reality. Whether you hold the gun or are from the majority community is no longer the reality, which will be acceptable to those who are not. It’s as simple as that. The truth will not be what the powers say it is, in fact, it’s the experiences of those who live it. Read ‘Living in interesting times – Part 1’Equality, equity, and justice have to be the yardstick for all Pakistanis. The social contract cannot be with a select few or ethnically biased. This imbalance led to the break up of Pakistan in 1970, and since then, the Baloch, in particular, have been crying hoarse with no respite and no response from the State. End this perpetual cycle of violence and discrimination. Lack of modernisation, access to markets, education, and linkages to the rest of country is acceptable as long as the strategic assets have a safe haven. No more. PTM rejects this use of their lands and homes as cannon fodder for wars, which kills their souls and minds. As Pakistanis, how can we allow our state to treat fellow Pakistanis like this?When the PTM directs its non-violent protestations to the security apparatus, it is not making appealing pretenses to the political parties; they do not have the luxury of the farces we play in Pakistan. They know that this political class won’t and can’t address or redress their issues. They won’t because they are scared of the security establishment and have a lot to hide and a lot to lose personally. They can’t do anything, because for two generations the security establishment has taken effective control over governance and policy-making in the ‘border areas’ for the sake of ‘national interest’. FATA and KP Baluchistan effectively are cantonments. A visiting professor from abroad could lecture everywhere but not in Peshawar University ‘for security reasons’? Visitors need NOC to get to these areas, while intelligence people harass them, follow them, and make them unwelcome. Frankly, the security establishment doesn’t ‘trust’ the “locals” to be ‘loyal’ to the ‘state’s narrative’. Why? At one level, its pure racism, but it is also because those who have experienced up-close and personally the ground reality of the Talibanisation, Madrassaisation militant training and protection havens of ‘national strategic assets’ know that this is all hogwash, and those who are sacrificed in this grand game are the Pakistani citizens or anyone who comes in their way.But, it was inevitable after five decades of black-hole policy that a reaction would emerge. It would be unnatural if it didn’t, wouldn’t it? Zinda kaum? PTM is asking for the restoration of constitutional rights that all Pakistanis can enjoy, which FATA and Pukhtans in many places in the country have lost or never had. This discrimination is now unacceptable, they say. There will be no discussion, no explanations, and no justifications. End this now. They ask for the removal of check posts that hinder daily lives in FATA. From the stories of the locals, these check posts are like the Israeli and former South African apartheid regimes style internment structures, for the control and humiliation of the population. The media block out and black-out of this region has kept the majority of Pakistanis unaware of what our security forces are doing to millions of Pakistanis. However, this is not acceptable under any circumstances. No national security situation can justify terrorizing Pakistanis! What’s the point of security if it terrorizes Pakistanis? The uncomfortable truth is coming to terms with the answer to the question: Do you consider them Pakistanis? Do you want them to consider Pakistan as their state? Social contracts go both ways. Security is for the people, not those who run the state. In the name of the people, the state has become dangerous to the health of too many Pakistanis. This has to stop. FCR, the laws which pre-date independence, have remained in FATA to keep the region as a dumping ground that serves security agencies for human assets and criminals. This continues without any consideration of the impact on the local population. Lack of modernisation, access to markets, education, and linkages to the rest of country is acceptable as long as the strategic assets have a safe haven. No more. PTM rejects this use of their lands and homes as cannon fodder for wars, which kills their souls and minds. As Pakistanis, how can we allow our state to treat fellow Pakistanis like this? I wonder if in the 1960s our parents felt this way about East Pakistanis? Did they do anything? Certainly, not enough, since we lost them. Don’t blame India, we need to take responsibility of how we arrived at a point where our own wanted to leave and turn on us. Will the rest of Pakistan repeat the same mistake?Do you care enough to find out more and fight for your fellow Pakistanis? The civil society has to wake up and engage with their surroundings. Learn about the Pakistanis living across Pakistan? What do they think, and how are they faring? Balochistan, KP, Sindh, the Northern Areas, and Gilgit-Baltistan are all part of Pakistan, including FATA. If they are, then sympathise, empathise, and educate yourself about your country. Demand information. Seek information. Ask for media coverage, ask for access. Until we push for this, the powers that be will keep spaces away from us, and more importantly, fellow citizens in the darkness. PTM has emerged out of this darkness; they need our support, not conspiracy theories to quelch our conscience, again.