Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, recently expressed his love for the Pashtun Culture in neighbouring Afghanistan, saying that the Pashtun people carry their rich culture, and the global community should know more about it. Although PM Khan is of Mohajeer origin, as Niyazis are a Ghilzai Pashtun tribe. Hence, the Pakistani PM is a Pashtun or Pathan by birth. The Mohajeer (also spelled Mahajir and Muhajir) are Muslim immigrants and refugees of multi-ethnic origin, as their descendants who migrated from various regions of India after the Partition of Indian Subcontinent (in 1947) to settle in the newly created State of Pakistan.
Speaking at the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) Summit in Islamabad on December 19, he went on to mention that the Taliban, currently ruling Afghanistan, was actually a predominant Pashtun Movement. The Pakistani PM also defended the Taliban’s decision to keep women away from education, saying that it was a part of the Pashtun Culture! Pashtuns, historically known as Afghans, are basically an Iranian ethnic group, native to Central and South Asia. The group’s native language is Pashto, an Eastern Iranian language. Apart from Afghanistan, Pashtuns (or Pakhtuns or Pathans) also live in Iran, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Russia and Tajikistan.
As expected, the Pakistani PM’s comments triggered an uproar in the region, with former Afghan President Hamid Karzai accusing Khan of sowing discord among the Afghans. Karzai advised Khan not to interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs, stressing that his remarks were “an insult to the Afghan people“. Many eminent personalities also strongly criticised the Pak PM for supporting the Taliban’s anti-women activities. The war-ravaged South Asian country’s former envoy to Norway Shukria Barakzai stated that such comments highlighted Khan’s lack of knowledge of Afghanistan’s history.
For her part, Nobel Peace Laureate and Women’s Rights Activist Malala Yousafzai said that Prime Minister Khan should not talk about women’s education in Afghanistan, and also about the Pashtun Culture, as he had no authority to deliver lectures on these issues. “I nearly lost my life fighting against the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education. Thousands of Pashtoon activists and notables lost their lives when they raised their voices against Taliban’s horrors and millions became refugees. We represent Pashtoons, not the Taliban,” Yousafzai wrote on Twitter. Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of Pashtoon Tahafuz Movement (PTM), hit back at Prime Minister Imran Khan, insisting that his comments were false, as “Pashtoons never denied education to girls nor denied their rights”. “Stop this colonialism,” he wrote on Twitter.
Several Social Media Activists, too, posted photos and video clips of ancient Afghanistan, showing women going to universities and schools. They used to be part of the Cabinets in different Governments. Some recalled that the Kabul University was founded in 1932 before the birth of Pakistan in 1947.
It is to be noted that the Imran Khan Administration in Islamabad has been maintaining cordial ties with the Afghan Taliban since they captured Kabul in August 2021. Experts are of the opinion that Islamabad is trying to use the Taliban to destabilise neighbouring India and Iran. In the last four months, Prime Minister Khan has repeatedly urged the international community to recognise the Taliban-led Government in Kabul. However, several countries are yet to do so. According to experts, the Pak PM praised the Pashtun Culture in an attempt to legitimise the Medieval Laws imposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, as a part of Islamabad’s propaganda regarding the Taliban rule. So far, the propaganda has failed to convince the global community. Time and again, the UN has urged the top Taliban leadership to respect Human Rights. Unfortunately, the Taliban seemingly remain the same as they were two decades ago.
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