The massive April 8 rally in Peshawar, on the call of the PTM (Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement) was unprecedented. This is because participation was genuine and the role of corporate capital, minimal in its organisation. Corporate media’s virtual blackout of the rally, however, was a disgrace to ‘free speech’. The collusion of media barons with the repressive rulership of this country has now been laid bare for all to see. This upsurge has cut across the prevalent political façade that has blocked the voice of the oppressed. The leadership of the Islamist, nationalist, secular and liberal mainstream parties opposed the rally and tried to stop people from attending. This attempted sabotage failed miserably. This rally was much larger than any of the rallies mainstream parties broadcast live on television channels throughout the day.

The participation of women at the Peshawar rally was spectacular. This revealed the progressive aspect of a people considered the most socially conservative in this country. Women have suffered most in the conflicts which have been devastating the region for decades. The imperialist drones, rise of the Taliban and obscurantism had made women’s daily lives completely suffocating. Displacement from their homes during the military operations has taken a heavy toll on the plight of women and children in particular.

After the government failed to fulfil the assurances it had given to end the PTM’s protest in Islamabad, a vigorous resurgence arose. These are ordinary young Pakhtuns, mainly from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). It is actually a social explosion of a simmering revulsion against a political and socioeconomic subjugation that has lasted for generations. By challenging the established order, these youth have inspired millions.

Certain incidents can trigger a robust upheaval in society, breaking malaise and smashing all obstacles. The murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud in a staged police encounter in Karachi proved to be such a cataclysmic event. It has been decades since this mayhem began with the US imperialists, Saudi Monarchy and Ziaul Haq’s fomented dollar Jihad against the Afghan revolution of 1978. This disastrous policy led to George W. Bush’s War on Terror against these sponsored Islamist jihadists that who subsequently morphed into Frankenstein’s monsters.

The participation of women at the Peshawar rally was spectacular. This revealed the progressive aspect of a people considered the most socially conservative in this country

The harrowing terrorism of the religious fundamentalists and subsequent military operations have pulverised the Pakhtuns’ homelands. The PTM’s movement has arisen from the devastation caused by this internecine war.

Its demands included prosecution of Rao Anwar, the perpetrator of Naqeebullah’s murder; ending discriminatory treatment of ordinary people of the tribal areas, particularly of the tribal women at the ‘security’ check posts, recovery of the missing people abducted by security agencies, removal of hazardous landmines from the tribal areas and rebuilding their homes, the destruction of which had been callously termed ‘collateral damage’. The PTM also demanded a decent socioeconomic existence with the basic provisions of food, health, employment and educational facilities.

PTM had already held mass rallies and long marches in Quetta, Qila Saifullah, Zhob, Malakand, Landikotal and other places before the Peshawar rally. So far, their rallies and protest marches have been disciplined and peaceful.

Apart from the accusations of being foreign agents and traitors, the smear campaign run by corporate media and intelligentsia on the payroll of the moneyed classes are a testament to the political threat posed by PTM’s rise against the forces of the status quo. The custodians of the state are apprehensive of accepting these genuine demands. The PTM leaders, however, are proclaiming that their struggle is peaceful and within the constraints of the constitution.

The reluctance of the state to accept their demands reflects its stubbornness to give up neo-colonial control of these areas. To assert their power through political agents more than two hundred years ago, British imperialists had devised the very structures this country’s leadership uses today. Serious strategists of the bourgeois are fearful of the success of this movement having contagious effects in other parts of Pakistan, where socioeconomic oppression is also fuelling simmering discontent.

However the movement faces grave challenges. The state could resort to arrests, or even more ferocious acts against the leadership. There could be covert operations of deploying Islamist vigilantes or other lumpen proxies to disrupt rallies or eliminate the leadership. The possibility of actual agent provocateurs of both foreign and domestic vested interests penetrating and sabotaging the movement cannot be ruled out. Brute repression would be a dangerous policy for the top brass, as the movement has attracted support in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and other regions of the country. It would also concern the Pakistani elite’s imperialist bosses — both western and eastern. A negotiated settlement is also an option. But, even if some of the major demands were accepted, their implementation would be doubtful in the long term. The strategists of the elite would also be working on a strategy to fizzle out the upsurge through exhaustion and fatigue.

The movement’s initial successes have also created greater challenges for the PTM’s leadership in these testing times. A barrage of slander and denunciations has been launched against them. Luring tactics mixed with threats and blackmail would also be applied. The leaders and their families could be economically starved and subjected to stealth repression. It is crucial for the leadership to keep up the moral and the momentum of the uprising. But it is also necessary to garner wider support from ordinary people and youth of all other nationalities of the country. The PTM’s leadership will have to fervently fight against any opportunist ploys. At the same time, pseudo leftists’ adventurists should be discouraged, as their provocations can abort and annihilate this valiant upheaval.

This is a movement of the oppressed and the deprived. Its genuine supporters on whom it can rely and trust are those linked to the class struggle for the revolutionary transformation of society. It’s a common struggle of the oppressed against the oppressor classes of all nationalities and their establishments. Its aim should be to end deprivation, misery, tyranny and bloodshed. Such a united class struggle can guarantee a successful climax of the uprising and striving oppressed masses can move forward for their emancipation. This movement initiated by the PTM has shown the potential and capacity of the oppressed masses to defy despotism and rise in revolt in most arduous conditions on earth — inspiring the workers and youth everywhere.

The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at

Published in Daily Times, April 16th 2018.