By Francesca MarinoIslamabad [Pakistan], Jan 27 (ANI): Manzoor Pashteen, the charismatic, pacifist chief and founder of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), was arrested last night in Peshawar along with other five members of the organisation.
He was arrested with no charges by a group of individuals in plain clothes, and for many hours his whereabouts remained unknown. Only late in the morning, and after the PTM members, human rights activists and a good portion of the Pakistani civil society protested and raised the issue of his arrest - and of course, after the hashtag ReleaseManzoorPashteen was trending in Pakistan - he has been produced in a court and sent to prison on fourteen days judicial custody with the phantomatic charge of being 'anti-national' and for making remarks against the Constitution of the country. Which, of course, he never did.
On the contrary, he has always been a strong advocate of constitutional rights. "Strongly condemn PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen and other Pashtun Tahafuz Movement activists arrests on unknown charges. Instead of addressing genuine grievances of the Pashtuns the State is using such cowardly repressive measures to terrorise and silence a peaceful rights-based movement. PTM is a continuation of Fakhre Afghan Bacha Khan's nonviolent struggle. The illegal abductions and arrests of peaceful protesters have given more strength to the movement demanding Constitutional rights, justice and accountability" declared Bushra Gohar, a former lawmaker of Pakistan and a Pashtun activist.
According to PTM supporters, Manzoor, in fact, has been arrested simply because the State and the Army did not want him to attend a series of events and demonstrations scheduled for this week.
"The protests were announced against the destruction of markets and homes in the recent military operations by locals in Waziristan including the Mehsud tribe and the Utmanzais and to ask compensation for it. The Pashtun Qaumi Jirga was an initiative that Manzoor and PTM had announced to gather Pashtuns from different walks of life to discuss the current situation of Pashtuns" said a local activist.
The PTM movement was born in fact mainly to ask for their constitutional rights, denied de facto by the Pakistani state and the deep state. According to them, the local population has been suffering for years in silence. Their houses, their markets and their villages had been reduced to dust under the mortar shells of Pakistani Army. Entire communities have been forced to flee. Political opponents, ordinary citizens, activists, and intellectuals have disappeared or killed in 'encounters' even though they never owned a weapon.
The PTM also accuses the Army of using the tribal areas to hide the 'good' jihadi and to make the local population live in a climate of pure terror. They have asked the Government to stop enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. To send the missing persons to a Court and, if they are found guilty on something, to punish them according to the rule of law.
The Army has been trying to crush the movement during all the past year, arresting people without any clear charge and killing a number of activists in fake encounters. One of the demonstrations scheduled for in the coming days is in fact a commemoration for the death of Arman Loni, murdered last year during a police raid. Arman Loni, a Pashto lecturer, and a poet had been killed during a peaceful sit-in Loralai. And many others, during the past year, have been imprisoned or they are simply 'missing', including human rights activist Idris Katthak, who was kidnapped months ago by the usual 'unknown' fellows and plainclothes and since then has been disappeared.
"Manzoor Pashteen has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He must be released immediately and unconditionally" says Amnesty International, while PTM is inviting his members to keep calm and wait for a strategy to be worked out.
Meanwhile, the Movement will hold a conference at the Islamabad Press Club calling for the immediate release of Manzoor Pashteen, his companions and all the other PTM members and supporters imprisoned or missing. There are no so many chances they will be heard or listened, but, as the same Manzoor said many times their "fight will go on" in a peaceful and democratic way. Despite everything.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are strictly those of the author) (ANI)