In a protest led by the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement, thousands
gathered in Peshawar, Pakistan, last Sunday to demand the
release of missing persons and basic human rights for
Pakistan’s Pashtun ethnic minority. The protest is part of
the Pashtun Long March, a domestic non-violent movement, which began in January 2018 after the
extrajudicial killing of a Pashtun falsely accused
If the Pakistani
government fails to address Pashtun concerns, it spells trouble for
the U.S. and any political agreement to end the war in
Why it matters: Pakistan’s partnership with the
U.S. in fighting terrorism has incurred severe domestic costs,
especially for Pakistani Pashtuns, straining its already-fraught
relationships with both Pashtun-majority Afghanistan and the
The background: Since 2008, Pakistan has been
waging two wars simultaneously: a war in Afghanistan with U.S. and
allied forces, and a domestic counterinsurgency campaign. Pakistan
has launched counterinsurgency operations in every agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, including
strikes that have killed 3500 militants. These campaigns have led to an
exponential growth of “enforced disappearances,” extrajudicial killings and ethnic profiling of Pashtuns.
In the wake of those atrocities, the Long March has become a
culmination of the Pashtun community’s grievances against the
Pakistani state. The March, however, is Pakistan’s chance to right its domestic
wrongs and improve political stability.
The bottom line: If the Pakistani government
fails to address Pashtun concerns, it spells trouble for the U.S.
and any political agreement to end the war in Afghanistan.
Pakistani inaction will not only risk further weakening of its
relationship with Afghanistan, but will also further reduce its
already waning leverage on the Taliban to accept President Ashraf
Ghani’s peace deal.