If Cleopatra’s nose had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have changed. And like Cleopatra’s proverbial nose, the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud culminated in the rise of the Pakhtun Tahffuz (Protection) Movement (PTM). This incident is an example of the Contingency Theory of History, which states that “…a small event may cause history to change course, resulting in different outcomes.” The martyrdom of Naqeebullah was another in a long line of deaths that Pakistanis have suffered since September 11, 2001. The number grows even larger if we count the lives lost during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. How different could things have been had the Cold War between the USSR and the US not spilled over into our region?Would there still be animosity between the Afghans and the Pakistanis? Would the Al-Qaeda even exist? Would terrorism be as widespread as it is today? It is hard to imagine an answer to all these questions, yet it is clear that these events in history still have the power to influence our world today, even after all these years. The loss of the Russians and the withdrawal of American troops left a vacuum in the country, one that was filled by extremists, who have since caused the US and, especially Pakistan, a lot of problems. The people of FATA were particularly affected as many lost their homes and their lives during the war on terror. Hopefully the 31st Amendment to the Constitution can help restore some semblance of peace to the region. However, during the most intense period of fighting, the US and Pakistan sent in thousands of troops to weed out the radicals that had taken refuge in the mountains of FATA and Afghanistan. Curfews were implemented and homes were bombed as collateral damage grew. US drone strikes were particularly harmful, as they seemed content with killing a few innocents as long as they hit certain strategic targets. The number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) kept multiplying as well, and the majority had to live in temporary camp settlements, for months and even years on end. Already bereft of even the most basic of human rights, the Pashtuns emotions had reached their boiling point. All the community needed was a spark, and that came with the extra judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi by Rao Anwar In order to restore law and order in the region, Pakistan’s army established a network of check posts. Anybody passing through was subject to vigorous inspection, which at times could be aggressive and embarrassing for locals. While the army personnel might not have done any of this on purpose, it did hurt the sensibilities of the fiercely-proud Pakhtun community. I myself was subject to such treatment as well, and talking to superior officers did not work either, as they would present me with their own rationalisations for the behaviour of the check post guards. During my childhood, FATA, or Ilaqaghair (no man’s land) as it was known then, was famous for being a marketplace for all kinds of forbidden or illegal things. These included drugs, weapons, stolen cars and smuggled goods, etc. The locals were always at war with one another, and the state rarely ever intervened in the region’s affairs. The nineties brought with them the rule of the Taliban and the influence of the Al Qaeda, who in turn introduced their own brand of Islam. Once again the region was completely ignored by the people in power, till 9/11 when the War on Terror began. In the end, all this instability alienated the Pakhtuns, and made them feel like they were outsiders in their own country. Already bereft of even the basic of human rights, like access to clean water, food and education, and subjected to vile jokes and stereotyping by the rest of the nation, the Pakhtuns reached a boiling point and there wasn’t much more of this behaviour they could take. All it needed was a spark, and that came with the extra judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud in Karachi, by police officer SSP Rao Anwar. The PTM is based on the actual need of the Pakhtun community for, one, recognition from the state, and two, for the restoration of their basic rights around the country. They are a non-violent movement and even though initially they wanted justice for Mehsud, they are now fighting for the entire Pakhtun population in Pakistan. If the state truly hopes to find a resolution to the PTM, they will need to address the many grievances of the Pakhtun community and engage them in dialogue. By trying to censor any news or updates related to the movement, and by ignoring their justified demands for equality, will not only lead to the further alienation of the Pakhtun people, but also provide an opportunity for our enemies to exploit them for their advantage. It is high time the PTM is seen for what it truly is, a movement for change and progress for our country. Like Cleopatra’s nose affected the world, perhaps Naqeebullah’s martyrdom might have the same effect and change Pakistan for the better. The writer is a PhD and teaches history at theUniversity of Peshawar Published in Daily Times, June 16th 2018.