What is it that has driven Pakhtuns out of their ancestral homelands in the country’s North-West, to engage in a non-violent human rights movement? Is it conflict fatigue? Extremism? Terrorism? Or a desire to be recognised as equal citizens of the state? The Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is a manifestation of the trauma and sorrow the Pakhtuns living in Pakistan’s war torn tribal regions have had to face. Though the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have remained invisible to the eyes of most Pakistanis, the unending conflicts in those areas have rocked Pakhtun society to its core. Now there are calls for policy changes, accountability, human rights and reforms. The country’s civilian forces are left with a dilemma, either to face this new powerful movement challenging the security forces writ in the conflict zones, or agree to what Daniel Shapiro calls ‘negotiating the non-negotiable’. The illusion of freedom given to Pakhtuns living in FATA’s conflict zones has been broken with the current Pakhtun uprising, as it has finally brought the human suffering they have endured, as well as the enforced disappearance of more than 30,000 people to the limelight. This youth movement manifests deep-seated sufferings and problems faced by the people in these areas. Having been made to suffer the indignity of having to deal with checkpoints and their abusive security personnel, state sanctioned abductions and extra judicial murders, the PTM has begun to question the nature of the ‘freedom’ granted to them by the government of Pakistan, by raising slogans like ‘Da sanga azadi da’, what kind of freedom is this? The sounds of war still echo in FATA. They have been a regular feature since the events of September 11, 2001 and the US invasion of Afghanistan. This includes drone attacks. The civilian population of these areas became silent victims in this conflict, first at the hands of the Taliban and al-Qaeda and later Pakistan’s own security forces. Not to mention that the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) that govern the area have deprived them of their rights as Pakistani citizens for 71 years. Despite having lost fathers, wives, mothers, sons and sisters; these people are not calling for revenge or inciting people to violence. Despite their suffering, they have not become disloyal to Pakistan. They simply want their Constitutional human rights Furthermore, even though the threat of the Taliban has declined over the past two years, yet the people of the areas are still waiting for a shift to peace in midst of perpetual suffering with no one paying heed to what is happening in the black hole of Pakistan. In short, the tribal Pakhtun’s relationship with the Pakistani state and the rest of its citizens is broken. However, the rest of the country is slowly becoming aware of the human rights nightmare the tribal people have suffered. However, efforts are being made to stop this as well. There is an almost complete media blackout of PTM rallies, and they are being made to look like anti-state elements. Yet this is also folly. If the state does not pay heed to the Pakhtuns’ suffering, the resulting resentment could fuel more conflict and unrest. The state should not take this movement lightly, for the stories the PTM is telling the world are true. They are a symbol of resistance against state oppression and the continuation of British policies. Despite having lost fathers, wives, mothers, sons and sisters; these people are not calling for revenge or inciting people to violence. Despite their suffering, they have not become disloyal to Pakistan. They simply want their Constitutional human rights. However, the Pakistani state continues to suffer from vertigo, staying trapped in an adversarial relationship with its own citizens. Until this changes, reconciliation is impossible. Srdja Popovic, the Yugoslav youth leader whose movement in Yugoslavia helped organise the revolution which overthrew President Slobodan Milosevic is a historical case in point as to how regimes which do not respect human rights are eventually overthrown. The PTM has become the voice of all communities suffering in Pakistan. Be that the Hazara or Baloch community or other victims of extra judicial killings and disappearance in different parts of the country. Amid this crisis, why is the state still showing a limited response to the PTMs demands? This question answers itself. A positive response from the state would open up the Pandora’s Box of 71 years of flawed policies in the tribal areas. A pledge for reforms, accountability of the security forces indulging in human rights violations would decode the state’s interest in keeping this area no different from a concentration camp. The writer is a Research fellow, Harvard University having PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies Published in Daily Times, May 17th 2018.