Pashtun Tahafuz Movement is at the helm of struggle against the Pakistani oppression. After the brutal arrest and subsequent abduction of its Pashtun leader Manzoor Pashteen, PTM has become more aggressive in its approach to protect the Pashtun rights and freedom. In a latest development, on 14 January, PTM held a mass protest rally in Bannu demanding the immediate release of Manzoor Pashteen along with other PTM activists who are captivated on various false cases.
Since last few weeks, PTM was preparing for the Bannu protest. After Manzoor Pashteen was rearrested by the Jhelum Police from the gates of Adiala prison, the protest gained even more importance among the PTM activists. Hence, they intensified their campaign to make the protest successful. In response to their aggressive campaign, tens of thousands of Pashtuns and PTM activists reached Bannu and raised their voice against the oppression by the Pakistani establishment.
Bannu administration mischief
However, as expected Pakistan Army left no stone unturned to sabotage the protest. On the dawn of day of jalsa, i.e. January 14, the local police reached at the protest site and vandalized the preparations. Dissent fearing establishment employed the same tactic to thwart the jalsa which was employed to stop the Baloch long march. Bannu administration and local police took with them the speakers and other materials crucial for the protest. PTM has registered strong disappointment over the incident. PTM’s central leader Haji Samad Khan, in a video message, stated that their belongings were stolen by the administration even when all the required permissions were taken by the local PTM unit.
Notably, a significant number of police personnel were also deployed at the site since the morning. Although Khan stated that they would hold the protest as planned.
Furthermore, some reports also suggest that some of the PTM members were also arrested, and shots were fired on the meeting site. Nonetheless, defying the establishment’s pressure and sabotage attempt, people participated in the protest rally in a significant numbers. The anger and agony among the protestors were evident by their strong sloganeering. This was commended by the address of Hanif Pashteen, a PTM activists who was recently released from jail after 4 years. Hanif hurled slogans against the Pakistan Army stating it responsible for the terrorism in the region.
PTM sends strong message through Bannu protest
Facing the crowd he yelled, “Yeh jo dehshatgardi hai…” (This is terrorism ) and the crowd reciprocated with “Iske peeche wardi hai” (the uniform is behind this). Also, he also hurled slogans saying, “Yeh wardiwale” (these men in uniform) to which people replied “Dehshatgard” (terrorists).
Meanwhile the slogans were also raised demanding the release of Manzoor Pashteen. The huge influx of Pashtuns in Bannu shook the Pakistan Army to its core. Despite their mischievous acts to sabotage the protest, protestors in Bannu held a successful protest, sending a clear message that coercion can not deter the Pashtuns. After an era of coercion and disrupted life, the people have now become fearless and vocal. Now it’s up to the Pakistan Army to fathom over their long established policy of persecution.