Islamabad: Pashtuns living across 1,600-mile-long disputed Durand Line have been facing innumerable miseries because of Pakistan's so-called 'War on Terror'.

Pashtun civilians are deliberately mislabelled, harassed, and used as a political tool by Islamabad in order for the country to earn international praise for supposedly combating terrorism.

On December 16, 2014, a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Pakistan's Peshawar city shook the world's conscience.

This attack was one of the world's deadliest school massacres. Seven gunmen affiliated with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) killed 149 people, including 132 schoolchildren.

In retaliation, Pakistan established the National Action Plan to crack down on terrorism. A joint military offensive called Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched, and subsequently augmented by Pakistan Armed Forces in the Pashtun-dominated North Waziristan

The operation was primarily aimed at wiping out Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other terrorist organisations.

In April 2017, Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) announced the arrest of Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban terrorist responsible for the Peshawar Army School massacre. Unfortunately, in February 2020, he was able to escape from the custody of Pakistani agencies.

Advocate Fazal Khan, whose 14-year-old son was killed in the Peshawar School terror attack, has serious doubts surrounding Ehsan's imprisonment.

Fazal, who is now living in exile himself, survived an assassination attempt in July of 2020 in Peshawar, for exposing the nexus between Pakistan's secret agencies and the Taliban.

Fazal Khan, President, of Army Public School Peshawar Shuhada (Martyrs) Forum while commenting on the namesake efforts of the Pak government for fighting terrorism, "The Pakistan government claimed that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the commander of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the perpetrator of attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, was claimed by Pakistan government to be in their custody. Unfortunately, they kept him in guest houses and safe houses with all facilities for three and a half years.

"I can challenge that he was not presented in any of the courts and no punishment was given to him despite all evidence available on the media," said Fazal.

Pakistan's so-called "War on Terror" in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other Pashtun-dominated areas displaced over a million civilians.

A large number of individuals, including women and children, were forcefully kidnapped, tortured and extra-judicially killed by security agencies in those areas. The Taliban also intensified its attacks in the region, resulting in the loss of life and property.

The conflict gave birth to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a social movement founded in May 2014 by students for Pashtun human rights.

PTM, which claims to be an unarmed and peaceful resistance movement, has faced strong opposition from the Pakistan government and its security agencies.

The Pakistani government has accused the group of dividing Pakistanis on the basis of ethnicity and of following a foreign agenda.

The movement has received support in neighbouring Afghanistan, where a large number of Pashtuns have joined the cause.

Malaiz Daud the Political analyst & Research Fellow, EFSAS said, "With all the attacks TTP is planning or already conducted, the only viable solution right now has been when Pashtuns have come out on streets, they protested vigorously. They have said no to the presence of the Taliban. Without the presence of PTM, you would have a huge wave of terrorist attacks along the Durand line. And they have defended them. So, they have become a buffer between communities, between people and the terrorist attacks".

Malaiz, who worked as the Chief of Staff of Afghanistan's former President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, said the rise of PTM is not acceptable to the Pakistani Army or the ISI.

The PTM, led by Manzoor Pashteen, is holding frequent rallies in Pakistan and other parts of the world to seek justice for Pashtuns.

At the United Nations Human Rights Council, PTM activists are seeking international intervention to protect the rights of Pashtuns, especially the victims of terror and those facing atrocities committed at the hands of Pakistani security forces.

Khan, also said, "our basic demand was peace and the right to life. This was the main demand of PTM. We want peace in our area. We are against war. We are against any sort of terrorism because we have been shown by Pakistani state agencies like facilitators and sponsors of the terrorism rather actually we are victims of terrorism".

The Pashtuns living in northwest Pakistan are facing persecution at the hands of both state and non-state actors.

Unfortunately, in those areas, security agencies and the Taliban are involved in narcotics trafficking and other heinous crimes.

A 2022 report by the NATO Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) titled "Narco-Insecurity, Inc, the convergence of Pakistan and Afghanistan narco-trade", has exposed the nexus between Pakistan's spy agencies and the Taliban to carry out narcotics trafficking to fund their operations.

As Pashtuns in the region suffer human rights abuses, Pakistani security forces and the Taliban are enjoying a bond in the backdrop of a clean chit given to Pakistan by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Khan also said that, since the inception of Pakistan, you have seen it that, Pakistan state agencies have time and again admitted that they were nurturing these Taliban, they were supporting, they were facilitating them though they were saying that they have their own goals and agendas. So, it's strange like the situation that the FATF has given them clear chit in spite of the move of the people who are resisting state policies against the Talibanisation and resurgence, there are huge protests and demonstrations in the Pashtun belt.

Innocent civilian Pashtuns have, for decades, suffered human rights abuses and atrocities committed by Pakistani security forces as well as the Taliban.

As the PTM grows and raises awareness about extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the world will no longer be able to turn a blind eye.