Speaking at an online discussion organized by the South Asia Press Foundation under the title “Pashtuns under attack”, Khattak said that Pashtuns living on both sides of the Durand Line are currently are under poverty and are not being allowed to cross the line freely to maintain trade and social links between the people of the two countries.

Referring to the attack on civilians by Pakistani forces in Chaman last week, he said this situation was limited to Chaman but in all areas along the Durand Line. Khattak added that the Pakistani government, and in particular its military and intelligence services, had imposed travel restrictions on the people residing on both sides in the line with its colonial policy. “Pakistan has imposed restrictions on people crossing the line,” Khattak said. But the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan are free to cross over and continue their war against the Afghan government. He added that Pakistan has supported the Taliban for decades and established a parallel state in the country.

Another participant in the discussion was Bushra Gohar, a former member of the Pakistani parliament and a Pashtun human rights activist in Pakhtunkhwa, also slammed Pakistan’s mistreatment of Pashtuns. Gohar said that given the ongoing persecution of Pashtuns in the tribal areas, the tribal areas appear to be occupied by the Pakistani military. According to her, the people of the tribal areas have been kept deprived of legal rights and services.

She said militant groups in the area were regrouping and that was why Pakistan had banned the media to keep people and the international community unaware of the situation in the tribal areas. “I went to Khaisur village in North Waziristan,” Gohar said. “The area has been occupied and we have seen the Taliban regrouping for another war.”

The activities of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) were also discussed during the online discussion and the participants considered the activities of the movement useful in preventing the ongoing situation and conspiracies against the Pashtuns in the tribal areas.

Gulalai Ismail, a member of the movement who participated in the discussion organized by the South Asian Press Foundation, said Pakistan’s military and intelligence were depriving the tribal areas of their rights.  She added that the tribal districts have become a haven for terrorist groups.

According to Ismail, in addition to deprivation in these areas, Pakistan has also systematically increased religious extremism among the Pashtuns in the tribal belt, in a bid to facilitate the recruitment of militants. “Pakistan’s aim to deprive the Pashtuns of their legal rights and justice, as well as to keep the tribal areas a haven for terrorist groups,” Ismail said. “Pakistan has spread religious extremism in the region so that terrorist groups can easily recruit.”

The remarks by the Pakistani government, and in particular the military and intelligence services, about the mistreatment and deprivation of Pashtuns, come at a time when residents of the tribal areas have recently witnessed an increase in targeted killings as well as terrorism.