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The brotherhood of Pathans

The Tribune 2018-06-14 01:49:00
Pashteen hat in Afghan camp points to cross-border sympathies
Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of a Pathan movement in Pakistan, has found sympathy in the Afghan cricket camp.

Asghar Stanikzai, the Afghan captain, has been an international player for 14 years of his life of 30 years and 173 days. He’s not media-shy — he’s a tough, feisty character, actually; yet he suddenly turns coy when it comes to being photographed with his very distinctive hat on — a patterned hat in the colours red and black. “No, I don’t want to get photographed with that hat on,” he says, though he’d been roaming around with it for quite some time. What’s it about this hat that bothers Stanikzai? Well, it’s just that he doesn’t want to bring any more trouble on a Pakistani man called Manzoor Pashteen.
Pashteen is a Pakhtoon — or Pathan — who’s the charismatic young leader of a protest movement called the Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in Pakistan. PTM rose to prominence when it oragnised a series of massive rallies to protest the extrajudicial killing of a young Pakhtoon model, Naqueebullah Mehsud, allegedly by a notorious police officer, Rao Anwar. Pashteen is a soft-spoken man who has been speaking about the difficult lives of the Pakhtoon people in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas regions. He raises issues such as the massive number of landmines in the tribal areas close to Afghanistan, the harassment of the locals by the security forces, and the general sense of suspicion against the Pakhtoons in other provinces such as Punjab and Sind. For that, he’s often called a traitor and, worse, an agent of the Indian intelligence agency RAW. His opponents also allege that he’s in league with the Afghan Pakhtoons across the border. Pashteen has got enough troubles on his hands — it is alleged that the Pakistani ‘establishment’ is using the Taliban to attack PTM leaders.
The trademark of Pashteen is a very distinctive hat that he wears — a patterned hat in the colours red and black. Originally called a Mazari hat, it’s becoming increasingly famous as ‘Pashteen hat’. The popularity and demand of this hat has skyrocketed in Afghanistan in recent month. It’s become a sign of solidarity with Pashteen and PTM. Stanikzai probably doesn’t wish to add to Pashteen’s troubles by being photographed in a Pashteen hat. “This hat has reference to across the border with Pakistan,” an Afghan Cricket Board official says about Stanikzai’s hat. “Many of the Afghan players have been wearing this hat.” They have a sense of solidarity with the Pakhtoons in Pakistan, he says. Various Pakhtoon tribes — such as the Stanikzai tribe, to which the Afghan captain belongs — have presence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan has four major ethnic groups  —  Pakhtoon, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek  — but the cricket team is exclusively Pakhtoon. Asghar Stanikzai and his men have a sense of brotherhood for the Pakhtoons across the border, as his wearing the Pashteen hat shows; but the captain also has the extreme prudence to take it off before being photographed. He doesn’t want to cause a controversy, and augment to the troubles of Manzoor Pashteen.

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