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Saturday, Oct 19, 2019

Pakistan’s Pashtuns hold Lahore rally despite govt crackdown

The rally aimed at highlighting the violation of the rights of Pashtuns and the targeting of the community in extra-judicial killings.

world Updated: Apr 23, 2018 23:54 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Members of Pakistan's Pashtun community chant slogans during the PTM rally in Lahore on April 22, 2018.
Members of Pakistan's Pashtun community chant slogans during the PTM rally in Lahore on April 22, 2018.(Reuters)

The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement successfully held a rally in Lahore despite efforts by the government of Pakistan’s Punjab province and the intelligence agencies to sabotage the event aimed at highlighting the violation of the rights of Pashtuns and the targeting of the community in extra-judicial killings.

Witnesses said more than 4,000 people gathered at Mochi Gate on Sunday evening to listen to PTM leader Manzur Pashteen and others who aired their grievances against the state.

The mood was sombre, said the witnesses, and those attending included a number of non-Pashtuns, who were keen to know more about the movement that has dramatically gained support over the past few weeks despite pressure on the media not to give it coverage. 

Among those who took the rostrum were Tahera Jalib, daughter of the revolutionary poet Habib Jalib, who read out Dastoor, a famous poem by her father, and Amina Masood Janjua of the Defence of Human Rights Pakistan, whose husband has been missing since 2005.

Advocate Fazal Khan, the father of a student martyred in the 2014 Taliban attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, also addressed the gathering and repeated his demand for forming a judicial commission to investigate the incident that left nearly 150 dead.

Awami Workers Party president Fanoos Gujjar, while addressing the crowd, said: "Yesterday, when PTM leaders were arrested, we were told: 'There is peace in Lahore and you are anti-state traitors. What will the traitors do here? Pakhtuns here are studying and conducting trade, why are you taking their peace away?'"

PTM central leader Ali Wazir said, "The movement has come to Lahore so that if something (untoward) happens in the future, nobody can say 'You never reached out to us'."

Manzoor Pashteen then took to the stage, saying it was the PTM's "heartfelt wish" to present the situation hidden from the media and the eyes of the public to the people of Lahore. He explained why the PTM had included the arrest of police official Rao Anwar, blamed for a string of extra-judicial killings, and recovery of “missing persons” or victims of enforced disappearances in its demands.

Pashteen called for a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” on extra-judicial killings. He also demanded justice in the case of Naqeebullah, a Pashtun youngster who was allegedly killed by Rao Anwar, and thousands of other Pashtuns who were victim of extra-judicial killings.

He said he and his family were described as terrorists, whereas in reality, he belonged to a family that is very peace-loving. He also spoke of army generals "whose coffers are full, who buy properties in foreign lands and retain dual nationalities, while calling those who have only this one country as anti-national".

Journalist Sabahat Zakarya, who attended the rally, commented: "One point that particularly struck me in Pashteen’s speech was how known terrorists like Ehsanullah Ehsan have been given reprieve but there’s no sign of the missing persons PTM is fighting for." 

Pashteen announced the PTM would hold another public rally in Karachi on May 12 and said they would also lodge protest against the media for not properly highlighting the issues of Pashtuns. He said the media was covering the complete viewpoint of his opponents but not properly presenting issues that need to be highlighted.

A number of PTM leaders were briefly detained on Saturday while workers found the venue of the rally flooded with sewage water. Both the instances, the PTM said, were attempts to coerce the party into not holding the rally.

The Punjab government’s refusal to grant permission to the PTM for its rally, combined with the detention of its workers, was criticised by PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz and Pakistan People’s Party leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who backed the movement's right to protest.

Maryam Nawaz said the rally should have been allowed while Bilawal condemned the "high-handedness and disregard for the constitutional rights of the people" shown by the Punjab government.

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 23:54 IST

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