The ‘traitor’ label

Updated October 02, 2019

Email

The situation calls for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s intervention.

After four months in custody, MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir had a torrid time in the National Assembly on Monday; the proceedings illustrated how little we have learnt from our tempestuous history of nationalist movements.

The two independent legislators from North and South Waziristan, who are affiliated with the PTM, had been arrested for their alleged involvement in two separate incidents. One was the deadly May 26 clash between military personnel and PTM activists at the Kharqamar check post that resulted in 13 deaths, and the other an IED blast in which four army officials were martyred. On Sept 18, an anti-terrorism court in Bannu granted bail to Mr Wazir and Mr Dawar in the second case, enabling them to participate in parliamentary proceedings.

In the assembly, however, several cabinet members made it clear in a number of ways that they considered the two legislators to be traitors, and demanded proof of their loyalty to Pakistan in return for the government negotiating with them.

Parliament offers a platform where its members can disagree, even disagree strongly, with each other on important issues that concern the people they represent. However, to use it to accuse fellow legislators of treachery is an abuse of that privilege; indeed, such allegations undermine the very purpose of the institution — to bring together the many parts that make up the whole of Pakistan.

Mr Wazir and Mr Dawar were elected by the people of Waziristan to represent them.

To impute a sinister ‘agenda’ to them and question their patriotic credentials is tantamount to casting the same aspersions on their electorate. What can be achieved by that, except to further alienate a people who after decades of a terrible, devastating conflict in their native areas, have been brought into the constitutional fold for the first time in Pakistan’s history?

The prime minister himself has conceded that the PTM’s demands are not without merit. An appropriate intercession from him at this point could prevent negative repercussions in the long run, and the unintended consequences of which we should be acutely cognisant. Consider how Bacha Khan, Attaullah Mengal and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to name but a few, were declared traitors by a state wishing to silence genuine grievances and suppress legitimate political demands.

That resulted only in deepening the ethnic divides and, in one case, led to this nation being torn asunder.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd , 2019