Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Pashtun protest leader arrested by Pakistani police

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Demonstration to demand the release of Manzoor Pashteen, in Karachi, January 28, 2020. ASIF HASSAN / AFP

Manzoor Pashteen's arrest makes a stir in Pakistan. The leader of the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) was arrested by the police late Monday, January 27, in the Tehkal Bala district of Peshawar, capital of the northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Until now, the police did not dare to arrest this 28-year-old activist who managed to create in January 2018 a civil rights organization for the benefit of a stateless people, 55 million people living in the central part of Afghanistan and in the tribal belt of north-west Pakistan, an organization which worries the government in power in Islamabad.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Pashtuns in Pakistan mobilize to defend their rights

Mr. Pashteen felt threatened and changed accommodation several times a day. However, for the past few weeks, he has not hesitated to challenge the government by making public appearances at large rallies organized all over the country, in order to demand the demining of Pakistani border areas. 'Afghanistan, refuge of jihadist and insurgent groups since the fall of the Afghan Taliban regime in 2001, but also the end of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and illegal detentions attributed to the Pakistani army.

"Promotion of animosity"

On January 12, Manzoor Pashteen participated in a demonstration in Bannu, southwest of Peshawar. He planned to do the same Sunday, February 2 in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan (west). According to his arrest warrant which was published Tuesday January 28 by the local press, he is accused of "Conspiracy against the state", of "Sedition", "Criminal intimidation", calls to "The abolition of Pakistani sovereignty", and more generally of "Promotion of animosity" between the Pashtuns (17% of the population) and other ethnic groups in the country, mostly the Punjabis (45%) and the Sindhis (14%).

Authorities say he overstepped a rally on January 18 in Dera Ismail Khan, south of Bannu. According to the two deputies that the PTM counts in the national assembly, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir (themselves imprisoned several months in 2019), the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, who was arrested at the same time as nine other members of his movement, aims to "Punish the peaceful and democratic demand for respect for rights" of the Pashtuns.

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