It was like a dream come true-the coming into being of PTM (Pashtun Tahafuz Movement) about a year ago. Long and painful suffering in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, especially in its western districts (formally known as FATA) got a collective, articulate voice in PTM. The circle of fear-that had forced people to silently suffer atrocities- was broken and they could openly speak about their sufferings at hands of the Taliban and in the army operations since the post 9/11 war on terror in the region. At a personal level, the PTM emergence is my moment of vindication. Few believed when in 2007 I started writing on gross human rights violations in the western districts of Khyber-Pakhtukhwa. Due to fear of the Taliban and the security forces no one in the area dared to openly speak and it was easy to dismiss my lonely voice, along with another lonely voice-Dr Muhammad Taqi, a former Daily Times columnist. Over a decade later PTM is saying the same and everyone has to believe. Both I and Dr. Taqi stand vindicated. Years before the emergence of the PTM, it was Shia Pashtun who first broke the silence. Taliban had unleashed a reign of terror on their areas. The state preferred inaction and did nothing to stop the Shia genocide by the Taliban terrorists. Shias had only one option: defend themselves or be eliminated for good. Arguably, the beheading of Laiq Hussain, an FC soldier, was a strong motivating factor in the successful Shia resistance to the Taliban. The Taliban kidnapped a group of FC soldiers based in South Waziristan. One of them was Lance Naik Laiq Hussain , a Shia soldier of Kurram Militia. Later the Taliban released the other soldiers, apparently all Sunni Pashtun and beheaded Laiq Hussain in cold blood, videotaped the gruesome act which they sent to the media in Pakistan and also posted it on Youtube. The timing of the beheading and the Taliban’s circulation of the video are both meaningful. The beheading happened in August 2007. The first episode of the sectarian clashes in Kurram that started in April 2007 was swiftly controlled by the government and was followed by an uneasy peace that ruptured with the new round of sectarian clashes in November 2007 that lasted till 2012. In the period from April to November 2007, the Taliban were planning for a decisive attack to ‘purge’ Kurram of its Shia population. By specifically choosing Shia Laiq Hussain from amongst all the kidnapped FC soldiers for beheading and circulating a video clip the gruesome act, the Taliban aimed to intimidate the Kurram Shias into submission. At that time, beheading was an unusual method of killing brought by the Taliban in Pakhtunkhwa and its public use by the Taliban terrorised people into submissive silence. The Taliban thought that the terrifying beheading of Laiq Hussain would shatter the fighting spirit of the Shias but its effect was the polar opposite. The Shias confronted and decisively defeated the Taliban. Laiq Hussain’s innocent blood kindled such a passionate fighting spirit among the Shias that they imposed a humiliating defeat on the Taliban, although with great sacrifices, including massive human and material damages to entire Shia population of the area and also in some Sunni minority areas in Kurram. PTM in Pakistan stands well within the law and its leaders keep asserting that they have no plans to go beyond the laws of the country. Nevertheless, it is clear by now that opportunists have landed in PTM to derail it from its lawful cause of human rights in Pakistan Nevertheless, Shias are a minority among the majority Sunni Pashtun. Their resistance to the Taliban could not be assumed as the whole Pashtun society’s resistance to the Taliban or a protest over the state inaction against the Taliban. Nobody has been able to evoke such a powerful anti-Taliban spirit or the determination to challenge the state inaction on the Taliban among the majority Sunni Pashtun as Laiq Hussain did among the Shias. I thought the Sunni moment of protest had arrived when Bashir Bilour, a leader of the then ruling Pashtun nationalist party, ANP, and a sitting minister, was brutally killed in Peshawar in 2013. But nothing happened. The Sunni Pashtun moment of collective protest arrived several years later in 2018 when Naqeeb Mehsud, a young Mehsud tribesman and an aspiring model displaced in Karachi was extra judicially killed in the city in early 2018 in a fake police encounter led by the notorious police officer, SSP Anwar Rao, already accused of having extrajudicial killed hundreds of people. Mehsud’s innocent blood finally brought the majority Sunni Pashtun’s loud protest over the state security policy and the military operations that have led to gross human rights violations. Naqeeb Mehsud is to Sunni Pashtun what Laiq Hussain is to Shias: the final motivating source that moved the people in collective action against the atrocities. PTM is young, led and supported by mostly young your people who grew up amid gross human rights violation in the war on terror. It is bold because it directly called out the dominant security institutions, the army, the ISI and the MI for gross human rights violations in the war on terror affected areas in Pakistan. Secondly, it definitively broke the fear that had forced the people to silently suffer gross rights violations at hands of the Taliban and in the army operations. PTM is also a consequence of the compromises that Pakistani political parties have made with the military establishment. Some political parties of Pakistan have a good history of resistance to marshal laws in Pakistan, but the same political parties have also ended up in bargains with the military establishment on people’s rights and interests, especially in terms parties’ acceptance of the military establishment’s control over the country’s security policies. The apathy of the political parties can be, for example, seen when in 2013 when hundreds of Bara Khyber tribesmen protested in front of the Governor’s House in Peshawar along with coffins of their dead relatives, friends and neighbours who they said were indiscriminately killed by the security forces in Khyber. The provincial police under the then PPP-ANP led government fired teargas shells to disperse the protesters and snatched the dead bodies from the protesters to be handed over to the then political administration of Khyber agency for burial. It is easily discernible that the action was taken on the direction of the military authorities and the political parties could not stand up for victims. It was this apathy and compromised stance of the political parties that created a leadership vacuum in which finally emerged the PTM. One of PMT’s famous slogans-da sanga azadi da, zwanan may qatal kigi (what type of freedom is this, my young people are being killed in it) was first raised in the said demonstration by Bara tribesmen in 2013. PTM came up with four major demands that include end to extrajudicial killings, end to forced disappearance; dignified treatment of public at military check posts in the war on terror affected areas and removal of landmines in Waziristan. Two of these demands- extrajudicial killings and forced disappearance-are also relevant to other non-Pashtun areas of Pakistan which are also badly affected by forced disappearance and extrajudicial killings, such a Muhajirs in Karachi, Sindhi nationalists, Baluch and even some Punjabis. These demands simply put PTM on legal and moral high grounds. Legal because under the Pakistani law and the international human rights agreements that Pakistan has signed, no state institution is allowed to disappear people or eliminate them in extrajudicial killing. Intelligence institutions in Pakistan are often accused on indulging in both unlawful acts. PTM publicly presented evidence against the intelligence agencies and relatives of the disappeared and extrajudicial killed people participated in PTM demonstration. PTM has never asked for unconditional release of the disappeared people. It demands they must be handed over the judiciary for the due process of the law. Embarrassed by the truth in PTM demands that publicly underscoring unlawfulness of some of their actions, the intelligence authorities began to release the disappeared persons against whom they have no substantial evidence and 100s have been released so far since the emergence of the PTM. This is a success of PTM and by extension of human rights in Pakistan. Similar, the uniformed killer of Naqeeb, police officer Anwar Rao was suspended from his office and now facing trial. The fact that Anwar Rao had previously killed over 400 Pakistanis in fake police encounters and this never resulted in any state action against him, but the only PTM pressure made the state put him on court trial is also a success of PTM and its cause for human rights. PTM is on high moral ground because the causes taken up by PTM should have been addressed by political parties and judiciary of Pakistan long ago. It is the cause some of the most helpless people in today’s Pakistan. A society leaving its most helpless people in the lurch is not a good society. The fact that PTM takes up the cause puts it on high moral ground because it stands up for the people that neither the judicial nor political parties or the wider society in Pakistan showed the courage to challenge the intelligence agencies on behalf of the families of victims of the forced disappearance and extrajudicial killings. Arguably, for first time in the history of Pakistan it looks that there is real potential of a meaningful improvement in rule of law in the country. One of the problems of governance in Pakistan is that its army considers itself above the law. Our prime ministers can be dragged in courts, jailed and hanged but army chiefs have de facto immunity. A PTM led alliance if backed by all ethnicities of Pakistan who have suffered at hands of the security agencies, gives the real hope to generate enough public pressure to ensure the security agencies keep it within the confine of the law. Pakistan’s strong security institutions stand on the British colonial tradition and only a strong, sustained grassroots public pressure that is also moral and legal can restrict the institutions within the contours of the law. PTM in Pakistan stands well within the law and its leaders keep asserting that they have no plans to go beyond the laws of the country. Nevertheless, it is clear by now that opportunists have landed in PTM to derail it from its lawful cause of human rights in Pakistan. PTM gatherings abroad are flooded with anti-Pakistan people, mostly from Afghanistan. Even some of its office-holders abroad are anti-Pakistan people from Afghanistan. The PTM demonstrations abroad are conspicuous for their lack of participation by non-Pashtun Pakistanis. Similarly Pakistani Pashtun who want to see PTM keep within the law of Pakistan have distanced themselves from PTM protests abroad due to the domination of anti-Pakistan people in the demonstration. The PTM supporters abroad openly threaten the state of Pakistan and its army. They passionately entice people in Pakhtunkhwa to revolt against the state and join Afghanistan. They openly use racist language again Punjab. Opportunists Pashtun nationalists in Afghanistan and some nationalists elements from Pakistan are seeing a life time opportunity in PTM to review their tried and failed politics of irritant Pashtun nationalism . More recently even Manzoor Pashteen, PTM leader, has began addressing overseas PTM gatherings dominated by anti-Pakistan people. to be continued The writer is the author of Taliban and Anti-Taliban Published in Daily Times, March 21st 2019.