Pakistan: Petition Decries Racist Harassment of Pashtuns in Punjab

Over the weekend, condemnation of an anti-Pashtun campaign by traders and authorities has made news, leading to a petition against racial profiling of Pashtuns in Pakistan.

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The petition has been launched by Citizens Initiative for Adaptation (CIA) on and it says that Pakistan’s military has abused Pashtuns for decades. Addressed to Pakistan’s prime minister and the country’s military, the petition demands stopping discriminatory policies that are targeting Pashtuns, as evident from their recent racial profiling.

The latest outbreak of grievance among Pashtuns and human rights advocates stems from printed notifications circulated in the traders’ community in Lahore, capital city of Punjab province. A widely circulated notification on social media is seen on a letterhead of Bilal Market’s trader organization. The notification specifically asks “respectable Pashtun brethren” to provide their particulars to the organization’s office as per instructions of government intelligence officials who visited the said organization’s office.

Bilal Market's trader organization notification
Bilal Market’s trader organization notification

The notification fueled a discussion on anti-Pashtun sentiments prevailing in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab. Another handout circulated on Facebook is apparently from Punjab Police of Mandi Bahauddin, though it doesn’t show any signature or official seal, and specifically asks the public, in order to help combat terrorism, to report to police any Afghan or Pashtun-looking person who is spotted selling green tea (traditionally a Pashtun specialty), dry fruit, toys, or other items of domestic use.

Among other anchors and media people, prominent TV personality Reham Khan slammed the hateful attitude toward Pashtuns in the country. Many Pashtun students and youngsters took to social media to express their grievance and anger at the reported discrimination against people of their ethnicity.

It is worth mentioning that the heat of racial discrimination comes at a time when prominent Pashtun leader Khan of Kalat, who hails from Balochistan region but is in exile in United Kingdom, has called on India to help in “freeing Balochistan.” The Khan was cited saying that he is also looking ahead to work with US, Iran, and Afghanistan to achieve the goal of freedom for Balochistan.