Pakistan arrests Pashtun rights activist Ali Wazir from Peshawar

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Ali Wazir (in black cap) during the inauguration of a public library at Waziristan in October 2020.
Ali Wazir (in black cap) during the inauguration of a public library at Waziristan in October 2020.

Ali Wazir, a lawmaker and prominent ethnic Pashtun rights activist was arrested on Wednesday on unspecified charges. A police official who took part in the December 16 arrest in the northwestern city of Peshawar told News Intervention that Wazir was “wanted” in the port city of Karachi, where the police had been registered a case against him. Wazir would be transferred to Karachi, according to the police official. He refused to provide further details about the charges.

Ali Wazir, one of the leaders of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), was arrested while he was attending a public gathering marking the sixth anniversary of the massacre of more than 150 people at a Peshawar school in December 2014, according to Manzoor Pashteen, the civil rights group’s leader.

“The arrest of Ali Wazir in Peshawar is representative of the continuation of repression of state,” Manzoor Pashteen tweeted.

Manzoor Pashteen’s tweet about the arrest of Pashtun rights activist Ali Wazir

In a video uploaded on Twitter earlier in the day, Wazir had said police had barred him from entering Peshawar. His arrest comes days after the PTM staged a massive rally in Karachi on December 6.

International rights groups say Pakistani authorities have banned peaceful rallies organized by the PTM and some of its leading members have been arbitrarily detained and prevented from traveling within the country. Some members have also faced charges of sedition and cybercrimes.

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The movement has campaigned since 2018 for the civil rights of Pakistan’s estimated 35 million ethnic Pashtuns, many of whom live near the border of Afghanistan where Pakistan Army had conducted numerous campaigns, which it claimed were to defeat the Pakistani Taliban.

But the PTM accuses Pakistan’s security services of cooperating with the “good Taliban” fighting in Afghanistan and allowing militants to return to the mountainous area.

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has attracted tens of thousands of people to public rallies in recent years to denounce the powerful Pakistani Army’s heavy-handed tactics that have killed thousands of Pashtun civilians and forced millions more to abandon their homes since 2003.

PTM has been calling for the removal of military checkpoints in tribal areas and an end to “enforced disappearances,” in which suspects are detained by security forces without due process.

Pakistan’s government rejects allegations that its security forces cooperate with militants, pointing out that the military has lost thousands of soldiers fighting the Pakistani Taliban. It also denies intelligence agents are responsible for forced disappearances.

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