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Pak Army’s Pashtun Ghost Refuses to Go Away

Published Jan 28, 2020
Updated Feb 29, 2020

The latest arrest of PTM Leader Manzoor Pashteen denotes that the ghost of a Pashtun rebellion continues to haunt the Pakistan Army given atrocities committed in the tribal belt.

Multiple media sources in Pakistan reported that the charismatic Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) chief Manzoor Pashteen was sent to Peshawar Central Jail on a 14-day judicial remand by a magistrate on 27 January.

Pashteen was arrested for alleging that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights and had made derogatory remarks against the State on 18 January in DI Khan. Nine PTM workers who were identified as Muhammad Salam, Abdul Hameed, Idrees, Bilal, Mohib, Sajjadul Hassan, Aimal, Farooq and Muhammad Salman were also arrested.

The case has been registered under sections 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 124 (sedition), and 123-A (condemning the creation of the country and advocating the abolishment of its sovereignty) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Pashteen has been leading the agitation against the Pakistan military and other security forces for gross human rights violations directed at the Pashtuns

Pashtuns, who are the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan but a minority in Pakistan, have felt neglected and targeted in Pakistan for some time.

That long-simmering anger boiled over in January 2018 with the death of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old shopkeeper-turned-model, at police hands in Karachi.

Police said at the time that Mehsud had been killed in a shootout with members of the Pakistani Taliban, but an internal inquiry cast doubt on that claim, saying Mehsud had no evident link to any militant group.

The killing sparked days of protests and a weekslong march in Pashtun-dominated north western Pakistan. It also prompted the establishment of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or Pashtun Protection Movement, that has since held dozens of rallies across the country demanding basic rights for ethnic Pashtuns.

PTM has been holding dozens of rallies across the country demanding basic rights for ethnic Pashtuns in a peaceful manner.

It has denounced the army’s heavy-handed operations in the militancy-hit tribal regions, called for judicial probes into those killed by the military, and campaigned for ending enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and discrimination against Pashtuns.

PTM also insists for the de-miningof the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter. The PTM has also demanded the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission.

Pakistan Army on the other hand has accused the PTM of receiving funds from foreign intelligence agencies a charge that has been denied by Pashteen and others.

Major General Asif Ghafoor, former director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and the spokesperson for the military, accused the PTM of receiving funds from Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), and advancing their agendas inside Pakistan.

“On the PTM website, they have got a number that states the amount of funds they have collected from Pashtuns around the world. But tell us how much money did you get from the NDS [Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security] to run your campaign? How much money did RAW [India’s Research and Analysis Wing] give you for the first dharna [sit-in protest] in Islamabad?” Ghafoor asked.

These allegations may not hold water and the ghost of a Pashtun rebellion will continue to haunt the Pakistan Army after prolonged counter militancy campaign undertaken in the tribal areas which had displaced the locals for months, mined large tracts of their land and atrocities which have gone unrecorded.