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PTM is on a peaceful quest to free all Pakistanis from oppression

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In his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire states: "Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognise others as persons - not by those who are oppressed, exploited and unrecognised."

These days I have been thinking of his words often, as earlier this year the Pakistani state attacked me and others from the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), killing over a dozen people and injuring scores of others. It had the audacity to try and put the blame for the violence on us.

We, of course, were not the ones inciting violence. Our only crime was to try and speak for a community that has faced decades of violence from both the state and armed groups.

I was born and raised in the region of Waziristan in the north-western part of the country, close to the Afghan border. The majority of us are Pashtuns, who constitute the second-largest ethnic group in Pakistan. Since colonial times, the region was governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), a draconian law imposed by the British colonialists in the 19th century. It left the local population with no recourse to courts and liable to be subjected to collective punishment for over a century.

The law was finally repealed in 2018, when the region was merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and its people were made equal citizens of the Pakistani federation, at least on paper. In practice however, the inhabitants of this region do not enjoy full citizenship rights and protections; discrimination and abuses against us continue unabated. We are still targetted by police raids and security operations which violate and kill people with impunity.

This violence I grew up with has its roots in the decision of the Pakistani state and its US ally to transform Waziristan into an incubator for fighters in the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s.

The infrastructure that was built there to recruit and train fighters to combat the Soviet army was later used by armed groups like the Haqqani Network and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to wreak havoc in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the strategic decision to allow this vast region to become a breeding ground for terrorists had destructive consequences across the globe, it affected Waziristan's local inhabitants, who were left at the mercy of violent armed groups, the most.

With the start of the US-led "war on terror" in the early 2000s, the region became a sanctuary for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants fighting an insurgency against the international coalition in neighbouring Afghanistan. Pakistan launched repeated attacks and air strikes on the region to "clear out" the fighters. But rather than stopping "terrorist activities", these assaults killed countless civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. Moreover, Pashtuns across Pakistan started to be stereotyped as "terrorists" even though they themselves were victims of terrorism.

In short, my people have been exploited and oppressed by the Pakistani state, various armed groups and foreign powers for decades and our........

© Al Jazeera