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Chronology for Pashtuns (Pushtuns) in Pakistan

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Pashtuns (Pushtuns) in Pakistan, 2004, available at: [accessed 24 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Jun 1990 Pakistan and Afghanistan together are reported to be the second source of heroin after the Golden Triangle of Thailand, Burma and Laos. While some of the heroin remains in Pakistan to support the habits of about 1.5 million addicts, the rest is smuggled to the West. The poppy growers are usually Pushtuns living in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. "In the remote valleys, because of increasing pressure on the land - overuse of the soil, and deforestation - the fertility of the soil is decreasing, while the population in increasing," said Anthony Pelser, Field Officer for a development project of the UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP). UNDCP officials believe the government's efforts to enforce a 1979 ban on growing opium cannot succeed unless farmers are assured a livelihood by other means. The Pakistani government is hesitant to move against heroin refiners in the autonomous tribal area as it fears the political and security repercussions in the fiercely independent region. A recent US report on narcotics control stated that Pakistan's efforts to get tribal elders to stop the heroin trade were limited to persuasion and remained largely ineffective (Reuters, 06/05/90).
Aug 1990 Right-wing religious parties and the leftist Awami National Party (ANP, a Pushtun nationalist party) have condemned the government decision to send troops to join Islamic forces deployed in Saudi Arabia. ANP leader Khan Abdul Wali Khan demanded the withdrawal of US troops from Saudi Arabia and attacked Pakistan's decision to participate in the Western coalition. Wali Khan's father, Khan A. Ghaffar Khan, is known as the Frontier Gandhi and the grand old man of Pushtun nationalism in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) (Reuters, 08/16/90).
Oct 1990 In a pre-election interview, Wali Khan stated that, "The survival of the federation is the main issue in this election. Everyone considers themselves a Sindhi or Pashtun or Punjabi first. Nobody considers themselves a Pakistani. There has to be greater provincial autonomy" (The Independent, 10/09/90). Wali Khan's family has fought for the rights of Pushtuns for more than 50 years and now he is fighting against Punjabi domination. He has opposed every government in power and spent years in jail, but for the first time his ANP is siding with the Islamic Democratic Alliance (IDA) against Ms. Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Wali Khan was an ally of Ms. Bhutto in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy during the years of President Zia's rule. When the PPP came to power in December 1988, the ANP was its ally. However, the alliance collapsed a year later when the PPP's NWFP Chief Minister, A. Khan Sherpao, refused to work with other parties and instead chose to lure MPs away from their parties. In the National Assembly elections, the IDA led by Nawaz Sharif emerged as the winner, capturing 105 of the 207 Muslim seats. The Peoples Democratic Alliance led by Bhutto secured 45 seats. Among other parties, the ANP won six seats and the Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party captured one seat. However, both the ANP chief Wali Khan and the NWFP PPP chief A.K. Sherpao lost at the polls.
Oct 1991 In Pakistan's western city of Quetta, Baluchi gunmen killed five political activists during an attack on the central office of the regional Pushtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party. The attack in the capital city of Baluchistan province was reportedly in retaliation for a previous incident in which seven people died and 28 were injured as activists from rival ethnic groups fought a gun battle in a dispute over the site of an agricultural college. The Baluch National Movement and the Baluch Student Organization had called for a blockade of roads to press their demand that the college be built in a Baluch area. The Pushtuns, who dominate the Afghan border region, want the college in their area.
Dec 1991 Pushtuns of the Khattar tribe vowed to avenge the alleged gang-rape of a friend of opposition leader Bhutto and one Pushtun even offered to shoot President Ishaq Khan. About 150 members of the tribe met Sardar Shaukat Hayat, father of the victim, and their clansman at his Islamabad house to assure him of their support in avenging a disgrace that the family blames on Sindhi province authorities. Bhutto accuses the authorities of ordering similar attacks on several women political activists in recent months, a charge denied by the government (Reuters, 12/15/91).
May 1992 At least nine people were killed and scores wounded as an earthquake hit southern parts of the North West Frontier Province. A large number of houses were also destroyed.
Jun 1992 A meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India in Rio de Janeiro failed to bring about any progress in improving the recent sharp deterioration in bilateral relations. "Miserable poverty in both countries can be eliminated if both decide to live as peaceful neighbors, reducing their armies", maintains Wali Khan, leader of the ANP, a government coalition partner, both at the central and provincial levels. But he states that the vested self-interests of the ruling elites in both countries is blocking a peaceful settlement (The Nikkei Weekly, 06/27/92).
Sep 1992 Flooding of the Indus river has inundated some 3,000 villages in southern Sindh, after rendering more than a million homeless in central and northern Pakistan. While there were no casualties in Sindh due to the timely evacuation of the area, an estimated 2,000 people in the Punjab, NWFP, and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir died in the flooding.
Dec 1992 A day-long government-called strike was held in Pakistan to protest the destruction of the Babri Masjid (mosque) in northern India. Responding to the Pakistani reaction, ANP leader, Wali Khan asserted that, "There can be no two opinions that what happened in Ayodhya was wrong. No religion will accept such an occurrence. But the reaction to it in Pakistan was even worse. We cannot destroy a huge number of temples for one mosque...The events in the sub-continent have shown that we have to maintain a secular path. We cannot afford to mix politics with religion" (The Ethnic Newswatch, 12/25/92).
Oct 1993 Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister as the Pakistan Peoples Party formed a coalition government. The Pakistan Muslim League (PML), which led the independence movement against the British and is now severely factionalized, formed the opposition. As an ally of the PML-Sharif, the ANP which fared poorly in National Assembly elections, made a strong comeback by securing 21 of the 80 seats in the NWFP assembly. The PPP and the PML-Chatta won 26 seats. As the PML-Sharif faction won 15 seats, an ANP-PML alliance formed the provincial government in the NWFP.
Feb 1994 The US Department of State Dispatch reports: The more than 2 million Pushtun ethnic people living in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) do not participate in the direct election of their National Assembly representatives and they have no representation in the NWFP provincial assembly. In keeping with local traditions, the FATA's members of the National Assembly are elected by the tribal Maliks who have been appointed in the NWFP Governor's name by the federal government's political agents. People living in this area have expressed dissatisfaction with having no representation in any legislature. The vast majority of Pushtun ethnic people, however, live outside the FATA and, while retaining their tribal identity, are fully integrated into the political, social and economic life of Pakistan.
Mar 1994 Pakistan's ruling PPP improved its weak position in the Senate (upper house) by winning 17 out of 37 seats in recent elections. However, in the NWFP province, the PPP won 4 seats, while the ANP, allied to the opposition PML-Sharif, won three.
May 1994 Pakistani para-military forces opened fire on a crowd in the NWFP killing at least 10 people and injuring 28. The crowd was demanding the enforcement of Islamic law in the province. In a statement, the local authorities of Buner district asserted that the forces acted in self-defence after demonstrators started firing at them. The chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami party in the NWFP issued a call for a province-wide general strike to protest the killings. Maulana S. Haq expressed support for the Pushtun demand for the enforcement of Islamic laws, including the Islamic Penal Code (AFP, 05/16/94). Prime Minister Bhutto has bowed to fundamentalist pressure to place the northern district under Islamic law in order to end protests by Pathan tribesmen. Her decision has angered secular Muslims, Christians and other minorities calling for better treatment of Pakistan's 3.5 million non-Muslims.
Jul 1994 Opposition leaders in the NWFP went on a hunger strike to protest against alleged excesses by Chief Minister Aftab Sherpao. Earlier this year, Sherpao, a member of Bhutto's PPP, toppled the previous ANP-PML government (Far Eastern Economic Review, 07/14/94).
Sep 1994 The city of Karachi was shut down on September 22 as the federal opposition (Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Awami National Party) called a nation-wide general strike to press for the removal of the Bhutto government. At least 44 demonstrators were arrested for violating the ban on public gatherings (Lloyds List, 09/22/94).
Oct 1994 12 people were killed, 30 wounded, and hundreds arrested across Pakistan during a partly-observed strike called by the opposition PML and ANP. The two parties were demanding the removal of the PPP government (Reuters, 10/11/94).
Nov 1994 On November 5, nine people were killed and several others wounded as Muslim militants clashed with government troops in the NWFP. The militants are demanding the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic) law in their tribal Malakand region, which borders Afghanistan. The movement to introduce Sharia follows a Supreme Court decision last February that removed British colonial laws in tribal areas (Reuters, 11/05/94).
Nov 6, 1994 Pakistani paramilitary troops have gained control of an airport in the Swat district of the NWFP following a battle with Islamic militants. 15 people were killed and at least 17 were wounded. The militants, largely Pushtun members of the Tehrik Nifaz Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM), want Sharia law imposed in their Malakand region (Reuters, 11/06/94).
Nov 8, 1994 The TNSM has released about 50 government officials in the town of Matta (NWFP) following a ceasefire between the organization and the provincial government. NWFP Chief Minister Sherpao has agreed to enforce Sharia in the Malakand (Reuters, 11/08/94).
Dec 1994 On December 1, the leader of the TNSM, Sufi Mohammad, rejected the Sharia laws enforced in the Malakand. Mohammad said the laws were defective and vowed to continue a campaign to have his demands met. Among the TNSM's demands is the use of Pashtu for court proceedings instead of the national language, Urdu (Reuters, 12/01/94). Also, on December 1, Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif accused the government's top leaders of being involved in the country's "biggest and sleaziest corruption scandal". Sharif alleged that about $8.7 million of public funds deposited in the Mehran bank was used for the PPP's purposes. The money was allegedly used to buy off independent and PML-ANP legislators to oust the previous democratically elected government in the NWFP. The PML-ANP government in the NWFP was replaced in early 1994 by a PPP government (Xinhua News Agency, 12/01/94).
Dec 4, 1994 Pakistani police fired tear gas to halt a march by 5-10,000 members of the TNSM who were seeking the release of their 85 colleagues who have been arrested during the past month's protests. The militants were unarmed (Reuters, 12/04/94).
Mar 1995 On March 23, an Italian national was sentenced to 10 strokes and two years in jail for drug trafficking in Peshawar in the NWFP. This is the first time a Westerner has been sentenced to a whipping by an official Peshawar court (Agence France Presse, 03/23/95). On March 25, the Pakistani government announced several record-breaking drug seizures in the NWFP. Reported to be the largest in Pakistan, the seizures occurred just before Benazir Bhutto's visit to the US. Pakistani authorities indicated that drug raids would continue in the mainly remote tribal areas where heavily-armed Pathans have traditionally fought to maintain their autonomy (Agence France Presse, 03/25/95).
Jun 1995 The leader of the TNSM, Sufi Mohammad, and twenty of his senior followers were arrested following a clash with security forces. At least 26 people were injured when hundreds of TNSM members occupied government offices in the Swat district. The militants were demanding the implementation of an agreement reached with the government last year to enforce Sharia law in Malakand (Agence France Presse, 06/19/95).
Nov 1995 Senators of the Awami National Party accused Prime Minister Bhutto of supporting Islamic Taliban rebels against what the party called the legitimate government of Afghanistan. The ANP was allied with the former USSR and was critical of Pakistani support of the Mujahideen during the 1980s (UPI, 11/22/95).
Dec 1995 About 3000 supporters of the Pushtan Khuwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) protested in Quetta, Baluchistan, against the Afghan Taliban militia. The peaceful protesters also condemned alleged Pakistani support for the Taliban. The PKMAP commands wide support in Pushtun-dominated north Baluchistan and has four seats in the provincial and National assemblies (Agence France Presse, 12/31/95).
Sep 1996 Six days of heavy fighting between Sunni and Shi'a Pathan tribesmen in the north- west region bordering Afghanistan claimed between 97 and 200 lives. (London Daily Telegraph 9/17/96)
Oct 1996 Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) passed a law making primary education compulsory. Pathan protesters thought the costs of such education might be too high, and that orthodox Pathans usually did not approve of educating girls. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 10/1/96). A study by the U.S. government's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (BINM) found that most of the narcotics produced in Pakistan are locally consumed, and only a fifth actually make their way to Europe and the United States. Pakistan had the highest incidence of drug abuse in the developing world. According to a Pakistani official, while the government had made progress in eradicating opium fields, "Most of the opium production in Pakistan is now concentrated in areas which have a high degree of autonomy under the country's constitution and are controlled by well-armed Pathan tribesmen."(Inter Press Service 10/3/96). Pakistani women held a rally at the Afghan border to protest the restrictions on women's education and employment in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. The women rallied in part in support of Pathans across the border, and in part because they feared similar restrictions in Pakistan. (Agence France Presse 10/4/96)
Apr 1997 During elections to the National Assembly in Peshawar, three persons were killed and as many injured during a shoot-out between the Awami National Party [ANP] and Pakistan People's Party [PPP] workers. Those killed included the son of Haji Ghulam Ahmed Billour, a candidate of ANP, and a police officer. Those injured included the PPP candidate, Syed Abbas, and two policemen. (British Broadcasting Corporation 4/5/97)
May 1997 An intelligence report identified several refugee camps on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border as being bases of three big Afghani Pathan movements: Mollah Mohamed Omar's Talibans (pro-Pakistani), Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami (Sunni fundamentalist) and the Ittehad-i-Islami movement headed by Abdurrab Rasul Sayyaf (pro Saudi and Wahhabi). (Intelligence Newsletter 5/29/97)
Nov 1997 The legislature of Pakistan's Northwestern province passed a resolution calling upon the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to rename the province after its majority population. The resolution moved by the Awami National Party demanded that the government rename the province "Pukhtoonkhwa", representing ethnic Pathans. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 11/13/97)
Jan 1998 Pathan tribesmen called for a holy war against Pakistan's power and water authority for demanding that they pay electricity bills for the first time in 50 years to help the government reduce a massive budget deficit. Hundreds of bearded tribesmen blocked the strategic road through the Khyber Pass and shouted "Death to Wapda [the Water and Power Development Authority]." Chief Latif Afridi threatened to blow up the Warsak dam. The World Bank issued an ultimatum to the government for Wapda to raise electricity prices and cut power losses due to theft, which amount to more than 23 per cent of total power generated. For two weeks, the tribesmen burned customs posts, government offices and official vehicles. Three were killed in gun battles with troops and dozens were wounded on both sides. Traffic did not move through the pass for weeks. (London Daily Telegraph 1/23/98)
Feb 1998 Mohajirs and Pathans fought each other and police in various parts of Karachi as a partial strike was being observed at the request of Pathan elders to consider the kidnapping of Rifat Afridi from an Urdu-speaking residential area. Police said one person was killed when an Urdu-speaking youth attacked a passenger bus, while another, a Pathan from northern Pakistan, was killed in a clash between Pathans and Urdu-speaking protesters. The Mohajir man charged with kidnapping the woman claimed that she had eloped with him of her own will, a claim she later substantiated. Ethnic Pathans shot the man on his way to court a month later. (Japan Economic Newswire 2/11/98, and Agence France Presse 2/26/98 & 3/4/98). ANP ministers in NWFP resigned from their posts as a protest against the ruling party's refusal to accept their demand to rename NWFP as Pukhtoonkhwa province. The resignations are reported to have been written in Pushto language in which NWFP is mentioned as Pukhtoonkhwa province, which means "a place where Pushto-speaking people live." The resignation presaged a split by the ANP from the Pakistani government's ruling coalition, headed by Nawaz Sharif and the PML, later that month. (Xinhua News Agency 2/26/98 and Agence France Presse 3/17/98). Two successive blasts in Al-Asif Square, a residential and commercial complex in the central district of Karachi, killed eight people. The area was dominated by Pathans and migrant Afghanis, and in 1985 had been the cite of an operation against narcotic and armed dealers which ignited ethnic clashes in the city. No one claimed responsibility for the blasts, but the Pathans in the area had clashed with Karachi's majority Mohajirs two weeks earlier. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 2/28/98 and AAP Newsfeed 2/28/98)
Mar 1998 Pathans in Balochistan, protested against an attempt to take a national census. Balochs were originally the most populous ethnic group in the province, but Afghani Pathan refugees were believed to have shifted the population. Pathans believed the Balochs were rigging the census to maintain their majority in the provincial assembly. In order to defuse criticism of the ongoing census, the government announced that the results would not affect either the demarcation of constituencies or the division of assets, thereby causing people to question the need for the census in the first place. (Inter Press Service 3/15/98)
Jun 1998 The ANP joined with the PPP and several other parties to protest the proposed construction of a hydroelectric dam in NWFP. The dam was expected to produce over 3,600 megawatts of electricity by damming the river Indus, but the ANP said it would submerge vast areas within a hundred-kilometer radius of the proposed site. The proposal had languished for thirty years due to fierce opposition, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced he would build it regardless of the protests. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 6/12/98)
Aug 1998 A four-party Anti-Kalabagh Dam Action Committee staged two separate protests in near Ubaro on the border between Sindh and Punjab, and in Attok Town, about 89 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto announced that the protests were aimed at removing Sharif from office. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur 8/10/98)
Sep 1998 The ANP launched a "replace Nawaz Sharif to save the Pakistani federation" protest against the imposition of a Pakistani general sales tax. The ANP stated it was in favor of maximum provincial autonomy within the federal structure. (The Hindu 9/6/98)
Oct 1998 A nationalist conference of Sindhis, Pashtuns, Balochs and Seraikis in Pakistan resolved to stand united against the domination of Punjabis and threatened that Pakistan might collapse if they were not given equal rights. They launched the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) and demanded that Punjab be divided to establish a new province of Seraikistan and that NWFP be renamed "Pukhoontkhwa." In its "Islamabad declaration", the PONM described Pakistan as a " multinational country" comprising five nations of Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochs, Pashtuns and Seraikis and demanded that all of them should be autonomous and sovereign. (British Broadcasting Corporation 10/4/98)
Dec 1998 Former Pakistani Premier Benazir Bhutto united with Pashtun community leader Khan Abdul Wali Khan to give momentum to her "Remove Nawaz Sharif" campaign under the Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement (PONM) name. (British Broadcasting Corporation 12/4/98)
Oct 1999 The Pakistani Army staged a bloodless coup, removing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and placing Gen. Pervez Musharraf in charge of the country.
Apr 2000 The BBC reported that the Pakistani government initiated steps to break up the foreign network of religious, regional, and ethnic organizations. Intelligence agencies all over Pakistan collected statistics about organizations involved in fanning regional prejudice, sparking ethnic riots, and carrying out terrorism acts and sabotage by inciting religious sentiments in areas including NWFP [North-West Frontier Province]. (British Broadcasting Corporation 4/20/00).

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