The provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkwa in Pakistan this week approved a resolution condemning racial profiling of a certain ethnicity in the country. It blamed the country’s biggest Punjab province– which has been dominating the country’s politics and the powerful army since its inception in 1947, for singling out the ethnic Pashtunes as ‘terrorists’ and launching a nation-wide persecution campaign.
Pakistan lost its western flank in 1971 when the ethnic Bengalis leveled similar allegations of racial profiling and persecution, and went on to have an independent state Bangladesh for themselves. The Islamabad government needs to learn a lesson from that, and take steps that would bring different segments of this diverse society closer rather than dividing it.
The provincial assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkwa has threatened to ban the entry of residents of Punjab if the persecution of Pashtunes continued.
In the wake of resurge militant attacks, the government of Pakistan allowed the military to launch yet another operation within the country last month with clear focus on Punjab. The law enforcement agencies have been given sweeping powers. This operation was launched after a string of terrorist attacks in various parts of the country that claimed over 90 lives. But, the racial profiling in the backdrop of this operation is quite
disturbing. There have been reports about police harassing Pashtune laborers, hotels denying them stay and the government turning a blind eye towards all this.
Prior to the latest attacks, the country was going through a rather peaceful period, but the Talibanization and militant attacks are not a new phenomenon in Pakistan.
Painting all Pashtunes as terrorists despite the fact that they have bore the brunt of militancy for decades also provides opportunities to extremist groups in other parts of the country to get away with their crimes. Groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayaba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Punjabi Taliban are declared militant groups with headquarters and leadership present in Punjab itself.
Instead of causing more hatred by racially profiling its own people, the military and civilian leadership should address the loopholes in security and intelligence services besides shunning the longstanding policy of differentiating between ‘the good and the bad’ militants.