There are approximately 2 million Pashtuns with intellectual and material resources, who are settled in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Australia, North America, Europe and other parts of the world. If they are organized on a platform, it can be very beneficial for the social and political movements for peace, freedom and prosperity in the Pashtun homeland in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. This was the central theme of a three-day workshop August 12-15 in Quebec and a conference on August 16 in Toronto titled Contemporary Challenges to Peace in Pashtunkhwa and the role of Pashtun Afghan Diaspora. The context of this mobilization is the unending wars in the Pashtun region, the rise of the rights-based Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or PTM, and the state’s violent crackdown on the movement.
The workshop and conference were organized by the Pashtun Council Canada, which adopted several points as part of the Toronto Declaration 2019. First, on behalf of the larger Pashtun-Afghan diaspora, it announced the formation of the Pashtun Global Diaspora Organization, or PGD. Building on the models of renaissance and the enlightenment of communities and nations, PGD aims at connecting members of Pashtun-Afghan diaspora to contribute toward building stronger and vibrant Pashtun-diaspora communities in each host country, as well as making struggles to bring peace, freedom and prosperity to their land of origin (the Pashtun homeland).
Second, firmly believing in the continuation of the historical Pashtun nationalist struggle, the members announced their support of PTM and all other indigenous rights movements struggling for the rights, peace and freedom in the Pashtun homeland. Moreover, given the current dire situation of peace and human rights in Pashtun Watan (homeland), it called upon all peace-loving people in countries hosting Pashtun-Afghan diaspora — both generally and specifically — to extend their support to these movements and efforts in Pashtun-Afghan Watan.
Lastly, it urged members of Pashtun-Afghan diaspora all over the world to spare no effort in bringing unity among the diaspora and supporting PGD to ensure the growth and enhancement of the diaspora community in each hosting country and playing an important role in peace and prosperity in their land of origin. Most importantly, one of the main objectives of the PGD is to organize Pashtun intellectuals and academics as a think tank, which will give input to the Pashtun political parties and movements in political, economic and cultural spheres, with the ultimate aim of bringing lasting peace and development to the Pashtun region. The three-day workshop in Masonville, Quebec, and the conference at the University of Toronto in Mississauga, Toronto — in which Pashtun intelligentsia from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom participated — are examples of such a cooperation.
PGD believes that it is the responsibility of the Pashtun intelligentsia to tell the world that Pashtuns are a peace-loving nation, which has suffered the most from terrorism and prolonged conflicts in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. At the conference, the invited speakers from science and humanities talked about a range of topics, such as the need for a constitutional amendment in Pakistan’s constitution; the organization/mobilization of Pashtun-Afghan diaspora; the role of and contributions of Pashtuns to ancient sciences, such as mind sciences and mathematics. One example of such contributions was the ancient mathematical text, the Bakhshali manuscript, written on birch bark that was found in 1881 in the village of Bakhshali, Mardan, Peshawar. Other speakers talked about the genocide of Pashtuns, their current state of affairs and the dire need for peace.
Hussain Haqqani, a Pakistani journalist and the former ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, echoed the need for organizing the Pashtun global diaspora and stressed that Pashtuns should protest against atrocities committed by the State of Pakistan against their people. He said that Pashtuns should let the world know what is being done to them. At the end of the four-days, the Pashtun Council Canada — in partnership with Paiwastoon, an Afghan community organization — hosted a concert with the famous Pashtun singer Haroon Bacha at the University of Toronto. Bacha, like many other Pashtun artists and intellectuals, had to leave Pakistan and seek political asylum in the United States in 2008 after the Pakistani Taliban, in 2007, asked him to quit music and threatened to kill him and his family.
The Pashtun Global Diaspora also aims to combat the threat of extremism to Pashtun culture through organizing and combining the intellectual and material strengths of the Pashtun diaspora globally. Although PGD has yet to determine its organizational structure, it plans to organize a conference in six months that will be held in Europe, where Pashtuns are settled in larger numbers. Siraj Khan, the head of Pashtun Council Canada and also one of the founders of the PGD, in a telephone interview said, “The Pashtun Global Diaspora will not take the form of a mass movement, but will work as a think tank that gives input to political parties and social movements like the PTM in the Pashtun homeland.”
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