The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Rather than represent the interests of Pashtuns, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has usurped Pashtun society, supplanting its venerable values with their twisted dogma.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) often portrays itself as the protector of Pashtun interests—a guardian of its community. Yet, a closer look reveals a stark incongruence between the group’s actions and the very traditions and culture of the Pashtuns they claim to champion. Far from being their safeguard, the TTP has emerged as an oppressive force, silencing and brutalizing those it purports to represent.

Pashtun culture, rich in diversity and steeped in a heritage that prizes honor, hospitality, and peaceful coexistence, is sullied by the TTP’s attempts to marry its name to this community. This wrongful association has cast a long, dark shadow across Pashtun society, fostering grave misconceptions and prejudices against them both within Pakistan and abroad.

It is a harmful illusion to regard the TTP as the standard-bearer of Pashtun traditions. They are, in actuality, a group of opportunists, exploiting the socioeconomic vulnerabilities present in the former tribal areas. These marauders have usurped Pashtun society, supplanting its venerable values with their twisted dogma.

The essence of the TTP’s nature is unmasked by their litany of crimes against the Pakistani populace, particularly against Pashtuns. The 2014 Army Public School (APS) massacre in Peshawar is emblematic of the TTP’s cruelty: over 140 lives, predominantly those of children, were extinguished in one fell swoop. This act of savagery indelibly wounded the Pashtun communal spirit. In a deliberate tactic to crush dissent, the TTP has ruthlessly targeted and executed numerous tribal elders and influential figures who stood in their way, thus attempting to dismantle the structural integrity of Pashtun society.

No cultural pillar—be it jirgas, funerals, religious gatherings, mosques, or celebrations—has escaped the TTP’s violence. Their attacks on these societal linchpins are designed to unravel the cohesive thread of Pashtun society. Figures with questionable pasts, such as Mullah Fazlullah, Mangal Bagh, Baitullah Mehsud, and Hakimullah Mehsud, have been propelled to the TTP’s forefront. Lacking religious or traditional legitimacy, they have falsely positioned themselves as the defenders of Islam and Pashtun values.

The TTP’s iniquities extend beyond mass assaults. They have brazenly kidnapped innocent Pashtuns, from affluent entrepreneurs to humanitarian workers, seeking ransom. Their strongholds are domains of dread, where coercive measures are used to stifle opposition. The TTP’s forays into narcotics trafficking, extortion, and protection schemes starkly contradict Pashtun’s moral codes. They have spared no effort in their quest to obstruct the development and well-being of the tribal areas.

The criminal endeavors of the TTP—kidnappings, unlawful taxation, drug trafficking—represent a direct challenge to the Pashtun moral code and Islamic tenets. Their engagement in these prohibited activities, devoid of remorse or divine fear, starkly illustrates their deviation from the path of probity. Pashtunwali, the unwritten code that governs Pashtun ethics, extols the virtues of honor, hospitality, and justice—principles thoroughly contravened by the TTP’s actions.

The image the TTP projects—as a nationalist movement or a proponent of Sharia law—is a mere façade. Their brutal and self-serving acts reveal that their true motives are neither aligned with Pashtun nationalism nor with the tenets of Islam. Describing the TTP as a deviant insurgency is fitting, considering their primary aim is the accumulation of power and wealth, even at the expense of their kin.

The TTP represents a significant impediment to the advancement, development, and cultural integrity of the Pashtun community. Their reign of terror not only hampers regional progress but also sullies the image of an entire society. Yet, it is heartening to witness the resilience of the Pashtun community, which has not succumbed to the TTP’s intimidation. Rather, they stand in solidarity with the central government, committed to purging this blight of terrorism.

The Pashtun community’s staunch support for governmental and law enforcement efforts exemplifies their collective resolve to liberate their homeland from the grip of terror. This stance reflects their indomitable spirit and their belief in the potential for a peaceful and prosperous future. The relentless endeavors of these agencies, reinforced by Pashtun solidarity, guarantee the eventual defeat of malevolent entities like the TTP.

Despite the TTP’s attempts to distort the narrative around Pashtun culture and Islam, the fortitude and unity of the Pashtun people, along with the continuous efforts of law enforcement, are carving a path toward a future where the rich traditions of Pashtunwali and the peaceful ethos of Islam can thrive anew.

Sahibzada Muhammad Usman holds a PhD in Geopolitics and is the author of ‘Different Approaches on Central Asia: Economic, Security, and Energy’.