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PESHAWAR: Orders for the Mazari red cap have increased ahead of the Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement’s meeting in Peshawar on Sunday.

The beautiful red ethnic cap originating from Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif area has faded cultural and gender barriers and is liked by both men and women inspired by PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen’s headgear.

While Manzoor Pashteen (Pakhtun is pronounced as Pashteen in his Mehsud dialect) is said to have got his cap for the first time from a labourer in South Waziristan, those planning to attend the April 8 PTM gathering in Peshawar are asking around where to get the cap from and one activist in Peshawar, a lawyer by profession, has made arrangements to provide it though not free of charge.

Lawyer Zia Khattak and his friends have made an offer on social media to help the people get the cap.

“It is a beautiful cap, which has gained popularity because Manzoor wears it,” said Zia Khattak.

He said a common man’s cap became popular as a PTM leader was always seen wear it.

“It is not free as you know the PTM is not funded by anyone. It is a movement in which all are spending and only working for greater gain for Pakhtuns,” said Mr Khattak in a lighter vein but making a huge statement about what the movement meant for many of its activists.

“We have been receiving so many calls and requests for the cap. It is driving me crazy,” said Mr Khattak while talking about growing trend of the Pashteen cap.

It would cost around Rs500 to buy the cap but heavy lies the head who wears it. The cap is fast getting its name replaced from Mazari cap to Pashteen cap but it is more of a statement than just a headgear.

Usually, youth wears caps of different political parties, especially during and before election season but the Pashteen cap is not just a colourful patchwork from but the symbolic of solidarity with the movement that has sprung within young Pukhtun to raise voice for protection of their people crossing borders and nationalities.

The recent social media images of the men and women Afghan parliamentarians wearing the Pashteen cap to show their solidarity with the movement is just one example.

“It is symbolic. I had an identity earlier but this cap has gained more meaning after the PTM has come to the scene,” said Sana Ijaz, a vocal PTM activist, adding the Pashteen cap has different meaning for different people.

“For me it is a symbol of Pakhtun solidarity, their resilience and a message to the world that Pakhtuns want peace,” she said.

She said an elderly man wearing the cap selling combs might be just copying Manzoor but to many, it was a way to register complaint with the state that Pakhtuns wanted their rights in a peaceful manner.

To many, it is not just about following a trend of wearing a cap to look good but it is a meaningful and peaceful manner of registering support for the PTM that is demanding protection of a people that have been deprived too long by the state of their basic human rights enshrined in the Constitution to every citizen.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2018