I Opyne

Stereotyping FATA

with 4 comments

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi is one of those people who gets respect from both his supporters as well as opponents, and deservedly so. These days, when Islam is being associated with beheadings and bomb blasts, it is because of scholars like Dr. Javed Ghamidi that one cannot do a negative generalization about Islamic teachings.

However, while saving Islam from negative generalizations, Dr. Ghamidi himself has resorted to generalizations about tribal Pashtuns, that are as racist and as unreasonable as some of those done about Muslims.

In his show, “Ghamidi kay Saath“, aired on Sama TV on 21st of February, Dr. Ghamidi was asked why the Taliban behead their opponents.

In his response, Mr. Ghamidi points out two main reasons,

1- Wrong interpretation of Islamic injunctions

2- Tribal norms and upbringing

While absolving Islamic injunctions for being wrongly interpreted, Ghamidi sahib puts the rest of the blame upon tribal norms and culture. Not even considering the possibility that by beheading prisoners, the Taliban might not only be violating Islamic norms of conduct but also tribal ones.

To elaborate his point, Mr. Ghamidi tells the non-tribal host of the program that while the two of them might not even consider slaughtering a chicken, thanks to a non-tribal “parwarish aur tarbiat” (upbringing), in tribal society however, even a six year old qabaili (tribal) child would have no qualms about slaughtering a grown up man.

As per Dr. Ghamidi, gore and violence comes naturally to Pashtun tribals as these are “mamooli batain” (normal things) for this lot. And it didn’t stop at that, as a caller declared all tribal Pashtuns to be mercenaries who have been historically up for grabs for the highest bidder. Dr. Ghamidi’s response to this racist and ignorant assertion was at best confusing.

Generalizations such as these should come across as shocking in any civilized society, but I guess Pakistani society by and large has not evolved to a point where individuals are judged according to their actions rather than their domicile certificates. Pick up any cellphone in Pakistan and it is likely to have an SMSed joke about Pashtun stupidity that has resulted in some outlandish behavior, be it sexual or violent. Leveraging this readily believable understanding about Pashtuns, many scholars, anchors, as well as politicians have gotten away with blatantly racist statements, as they rarely get called out for it.

But then generalization based on ethnicity have never stood up to rational scrutiny, whether they are done against Punjabis, Urdu-Speakers, Arabs or any other ethnicity. Like it or not, but there is no inferiority or superiority gene in anyone’s DNA, the second world war should have taught us that. People from a similar cultural background can have completely different outlooks towards life; urban Punjab for instance claims the Honorable Chief Justice Javed Iqbal, and also the serial killer Javed Iqbal.

Dr. Ghamidi’s assertion lacks any evidence to support his claim about this inherently violent behavior among Pashtun tribals, as he merely quotes theories about tribals in general and anecdotes about Pashtun tribals in particular that are dated back to the Mujahideen of the 80s.

However, it should be known that the history of FATA goes beyond the 1980s. One should consider why tribal FATA boasts bigger Sikh communities than non-tribal Western Punjab? What exactly were six-year-old Afridis and Orakazais up to in 1947, when Sikhs were getting lynched in their homes in Sheikhupura, Lyallpur and Gujranwala?

If 6-year-old children are okay with beheading grown up men in the name of Islam, then for sure the same could be done in the name of settling tribal feuds as well. I was wondering if Dr. Ghamidi or anyone else for that matter could come up with instances where Pashtun tribes had made mounds out of the heads of their rivals? There for sure must be some evidence out there to have convinced Dr. Ghamidi to be so certain in associating violence with tribal upbringing? If running feuds is enough of a reason, then how different are the inter-generational feuds in Waziristan from those in Gujranwala?

Interestingly, there are tribal lashkars fighting against the Taliban, but am yet to hear of a beheading that was carried out by anti Taliban tribals. If it was the normal thing to do among tribals, and the fact that Taliban are beheading members of these very lashkars, then how come these anti Taliban tribals are not resorting to beheadings as well?

On the other hand, was Ilyas Kashmiri also a product of qabaili upbringing that he was able to bring back severed heads of Indian soldiers? Can Punjabi Taliban also claim domiciles of FATA? If not then what exactly explains their unquenchable thirst for Shia blood?

It is a valid question to ask why the Taliban are overwhelmingly Pashtun, but then it is also wrong to ignore the “strategic” reasons behind it. FATA has served as a parking lot for Pakistan’s “strategic assets”: an area assigned to the production of cannon fodder to fight our proxy wars.

Billions of dollars have been funneled into FATA to not only turn civilians into soldiers but also to numb down the tribal spirit in order to make way for the “ummah”. As a result, Taliban Mehsuds have teamed up with Taliban Uzbeks to kill and oppress non-Taliban Mehsuds; an act which is sacrilegious under tribal norms, but is according to Taliban shariah. Taliban rule in FATA comes at the expense of the tribal way of life, and in no way compliments it.

Taliban norms of fighting are comparable to those of Jihadis stretching from Somalia to Syria and all the way to Chechnya, as they are all linked through a common interpretation of Islam. These norms are as shocking to the feuding families of Waziristan as they would be to the feuding families of Gujranwala.

As for the legendary “warrior” abilities of the “violent” tribal Pashtuns, one only has to visit any IDP camp to see how “comfortable” these people are with wars. In their thousands, grown up Pashtun men have fled for safety and are cuing up for food and water just like war weary men would in any other part of the world. That warrior spirit and that fabled thirst for revenge, which is so clearly visible from the comforts of drawing rooms and TV studios, is certainly missing in these camps.

The majority of Taliban might be tribal Pashtuns, but a majority of tribal Pashtuns are NOT Taliban. Anyone and everyone, who resorts to these racist generalizations about Pashtun tribals need to prove it with evidence.

Published in The News on 25th February 2014


Written by Imran Khan

February 25, 2014 at 6:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. the Writer is come up with the brief historical background of tribal area . There enrich valves and customs . Ghamdi shab should take his words back to keep his neutrality .


    February 25, 2014 at 1:21 pm

  2. Javed Ghamidi calls for ethnic cleansing of Pashtuns
    Quotes the success story of the “white man’s” policy of extermination of “Red Indians” and “Australian Aborigines”

    In a recent interview on Samaa TV, Pakistan, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a modernist Muslim TV presenter, discussed the rising disturbances in the north western part of Pakistan – particularly the tribal areas, which are inhabited by the Pashtun speaking ethnic group.
    Ghamidi said: The tribal population should be “dissolved” (tehleel kar dee jaaye) and “their strength should be broken down” (un ki taaqat tor dee jaaye). Ghamidi Laments that the Constitution of Pakistan ensures the continuity of the way of life of the tribal areas. He is impressed by how the white colonial governments handled the “tribals” in Americas and Australia. He compares the Pakistani tribal areas with Red Indians and Australian Aborigines, and recommends that “white man’s” methodology to handle these ethnic people. He was preparing for an anticipated justification of a widespread mayhem in the tribal areas which would include all civilians. He was particularly watchful for the children who might be killed; he said, that in the tribal areas even a “seven year old child is not afraid of shedding blood”, to justify the killing of children as well. It is
    Of course it was all shocking. He is fully aware of how the “Red Indians” and the “Australian Aborigines” were systematically slaughtered and almost eliminated in a genocide and ethnic cleansing that is the ugliest blot on the history of modern western colonization. The native American and Australian societies were “dissolved” by forced migrations. Their cultures, religions, and languages were driven into extinction through deliberate and calculated state-directed measures. Many native ethnic groups were eliminated completely; others were reduced to live in sordid conditions as minorities with no rights. In the American West, the “Red Indians” were hunted down like animals, under the protection of state army and police. The white settlers used to bring back their heads, scalps, belts, as “trophies” and boasted of killing them in large numbers – unlike the boast of a hunter who brings back trophies of wild animals. Deliberate extermination resulted in the number of indigenous deaths running into millions. Their religions became extinct, and were replaced by Christianity through forced and induced conversions on a large scale.
    Ghamidi is guilty of inciting Pashtun genocide, calling for ethnic cleansing of tribal Pakistanis, and of promoting crimes against humanity. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) stipulates prosecution of genocide and crimes against humanity (Article 5). Crimes against humanity include “compelling the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war” (Article 8, Sub section: xv). A person who solicits or induces such crimes will also be criminally responsible for the genocide (Article 25, 3(b), or facilitates, aids, abets, or otherwise assists (Aritcle 25, 3(c). All such persons can be tried and convicted for crimes against humanity, which may carry a sentence of imprisonment up to 30 years and/or fine (Article 77, sub sections 1 and 2).
    It is imperative that before such a mayhem actually takes place, Javed Ghamidi should be charged in the International Criminal Court, for inciting, abetting, soliciting, promoting, and inducing ethnic cleansing and genocide, all constituting crimes against humanity.
    It is encouraging to note that the Pakistani activists from Pakistan in general, and from Khyber Pakhtunkhwah in particular, have come together for this. A number of lawyers are volunteering their services to pursue the case at the International Criminal Court. All Pakistanis – not only Pashtuns – will hopefully show enough courage and organization to successfully get Ghamidi prosecuted, for which fund raising has already begun. Ghamidi has given his war-cry. Every human body that falls now onward, people will clearly see the blood accumulate on Ghamidi’s sleeves. Let the law-abiding citizens of Pakistan respond to him in a peaceful manner, by resorting to legal and constitutional means.

    Rana Akhlaq Ahmad

    February 25, 2014 at 11:08 pm

  3. I got my self introduced to iOpyne while searching for ” attan” songs, attan, the folk dance of pushtoons, while sitting in my room in one of the coldest cities of Cananda and I was extremely impressed by the research he has done on “ATTAN”. Great work…

    I always held Ghamidi Sahib on high esteem and mostly agreed with his interpretations of Islamic injunctions and tossed rest of the ankle-high, morbidly obese, multicolored/style turban wrapped and carelessly elongated facial hair driven MULA’S interpretations into trash can

    i totally agree that Mr. Ghamidi stereotyped all the tribal pushtoons and gave a statement without proof which is again contrary to the Islamic teachings. i wonder despite of learning so much and acting like a scholar one can still be biased or prejudice? or he still needs to revisit his knowledge and practice.

    will Mr. Ghamidi correct his position and apologize? I suggest he should……….

    Mudassar Tareen

    February 26, 2014 at 3:04 am

  4. I completely disagree with Rana Akhlaq Ahmed who has also put Mudassar Tareen also in a libido. It seems Rana Akhlaq has a personal axe to grind with Mr. Ghamdi and has woven an extremely wrong notion of Ghamdi’s explanation. Ghamdi Saab never mentioned ethnic cleansing of the tribals … what he wanted is to amalgamate the tribals into the settled areas as they are also as Pushtoons and Pakistanis as the Pushtoons of the settled areas. It was a British policy to keep them under a tribal administration for obvious reasons. These tribals have flourishing businesses in various cities of Pakistan and have total freedom of travel and residence anywhere in Pakistan. One should desist from Rana’s unfounded and baseless commentary.

    The reason that the Pushtoons have been often labeled as gullible is a long time story which can be seen in old Indian and Pakistani movies, just like the Sikhs or the Irish. It is not that Ghamdi Saab has blemished them deliberately for some personal anguish.

    We must desist from frivolities and should not blame wise people with a deep knowledge of the religion and the people.


    August 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm

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