LAHORE: An internally-displace labourer, Muhammad Din, frequently checks his mobile phone so that he doesn't miss his son's call.
"It's been eight years since Din's teenage son went missing in the tribal areas," says Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of Pashtun Tahafaz Movement, while sharing the ordeal of Din at a gathering of students, activists and members of civil society at Progressive Students Collective (PSC) office on Tuesday.
“Pashtun Tahafaz Movement is an organisation working for the rights of the victims of the war on terror in tribal areas. Pashtun internally-displaced persons (IDPs) have been living in abject poverty. It is very difficult for them to make both ends meet.
Even having a mobile phone is nothing but a luxury for people like Din,” says Pashteen.
He adds that the most important task of his life was to keep his mobile switched on at all times.
Sharing another ordeal, Pashteen talked about a woman he met at a protest a few months back. "The woman lost her son and she keeps calling me every now and then and asks when her son will return home."
He says the word, Laapata Afraad or missing persons, is a kind of word which conveys the heartache and suffering of thousands of parents and siblings. "A family gets closure after seeing the dead body of their loved. However, the family which does not whether the missing person is dead or alive faces severe trauma."
This is not the story of one family. At least 32,000 Pashtuns are missing, Pashteen claimed. “Where have they gone? "They have seen the horrors of war and wish that nobody sees them."
He says that it is easy for every law enforcement agency to pick up Pashtuns due to their profiling. Pashteen says that every documentary prepared by institutions depicted terrorists with the physical features of a Pashtun. "The media has also reinforced this image," he complained.
A student activist of PSC, Haider Ali says that they supported the cause of Pashteen because he was standing against the unchecked oppression which had been continuing for a long time. "We will continue to support Pashteen until every missing person returns home."
Muzzamil Khan, another activist, said that it was the state's responsibility to provide security, health, employment and homes to the citizens. "Unfortunately, Pashtuns have been deprived of their rights for decades."
Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2018.