The recent attack by a young Pashto-speaking boy in Germany, raises a series of questions, especially from Pashtun Nationalists about his identity. Initially, it was announced that he was a citizen of Afghanistan, and later some doubts clouded his true identity. But even if he is not from Afghanistan, he may be from across the border where Malala Yousafzai lived. What makes these two individuals so different that Pashtun Nationalists were trying to call ‘Malala’ one of their own and disowned the second one?
After Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl, was shot by Taliban in Swat Valley, the Afghanistan Ministry of Education asked schools in Afghanistan to hold prayers for her quick recovery. To sympathise with Malala Yousufzai, 9.5 million students in 15,500 schools across Afghanistan offered prayers. She was called by Pashtun Nationalists an Afghan, being from the same ethnic group. What made her so important was her ethnicity; she belongs to the same ethnic group as Afghanistan minister of education and President Karzai. A Pashtun from across the Durand line and it was a great opportunity for Pashtun Nationalists to call her their own and to keep the debate of not accepting the Durand Line as an international border alive. Besides offering prayers in all schools across Afghanistan, the Afghan Ambassador Mohammad Ahmadyar in the UK, bowed to her while felicitating her after her recovery.
When Pashtuns of Pakistan are considered Afghan it is purely based on their morality. The two cases, first Malala Yousoufzi and the Axe Man in Germany, clearly show how Pashtun nationalists are selective in identifying someone to be one of their own. The recent axe attack in Germany was met with a strong reaction in Afghanistan, doubting him not to be from Afghanistan, so let’s assume he was not. He was fluent in Pashto, and belonged to the Pashtun ethnic group – the same as Malala Yousafzai, who was considered by Pashtun Nationalists as their own. What makes Malala different from Riyad Khan are his actions which lack any kind of morality or decency. Although he claimed to be Afghan, his claim is not only rejected by all of the people in Afghanistan but also by the Pashtun Nationalists too, while on the other hand, Malala Yousafzai is a proud Pakistani, however, based on her ethnicity, Pashtun Nationalists called her their own.
The axe rampage on a Bavarian train in Germany was orchestrated by a Pashto-speaking individual and the so-called experts only labelled him as a Pakistani citizen, because of the dialect he used. He was also labelled by some Pashtun Nationalists as a Pakistani citizen for using certain words after listening to the video shared by ISIS claiming he was their soldier.
Based on the dialect spoken by him, he may not be from Afghanistan but he is Pashtun from across the Durand line and is fluent in Pashto, thus making him from a group whom Pashtun Nationalists say are part of Afghanistan. The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has once again said Afghanistan has neither accepted the Durand Line as the international border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and nor will ever accept it in the future. In early 2016 in an interview with BBC Urdu President Karzai said the Durand Line is a legacy of British colonialism. He said Afghanistan has never accepted the Durand Line as the international border as it has existed since 1893. Millions of Pashtun Nationalists are of the same opinion. In the past few years, the Durand Line has been a source of tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan which, in turn, has led to numerous cross-border shelling resulting in people being killed on both sides. The main discourse around the issue is that people of the Pashtun ethnic group are divided by the Durand Line.
In past three decades, millions of people from Afghanistan have migrated to Pakistan and still around 2.5 million Afghans are living in Pakistan, with some of them even born in Pakistan. Many even do not have Afghan Identification cards. Isn’t it naïve to rip him of his identity, on the basis of certain words which are not used by Pashto speaker in Afghanistan? It’s not only about the words or dialect used, it is more about his identity, its ethnic identity is undeniable, and he was a Pashtun, which should be accepted by everyone. Moral selectivity of Pashtun Nationalists in Afghanistan sounds very un-nationalistic. He was a Pashtun and he will be remembered as a Pashtun despite the immorality of his actions and his domicile in the Pashtun region.
What really concerns me is not his ethnicity, but that the region associates with Afghanistan. It will not solve the dilemma to call him a Pakistani and shrug our shoulders from the responsibility. Every Afghan government official and Pashtun nationalist who, like the Afghan Ambassador in Berlin, Hamed Sediq, says, he is from Pakistan, think they fulfilled their responsibility. But they forget the essence of the problem – vulnerable Afghans living as refugees in Pakistan. In the recent years, Afghan refugees have been forced to repatriate despite the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. There are several points which should compel the government of Afghanistan to look at the other side of the story and start investigating the case. First, there is growing evidence showing the involvement of Afghan fighters against the ISIS in Syria. There is already a case of using Afghans by the host country Iran for its political mean to fight Asad’s war in Syria. Second, US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad’s testimony in the US senate regarding Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and third, the recently leaked documents by former Afghanistan director of National Intelligence. What the Afghan Government should be looking at is whether the Afghan refugees are not being used by Pakistan in promoting terrorism in the Europen countries, as they are being used by Iran to fight in support of Assad’s regime.