Prominent Pashtun Legislators Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, who were elected to the Pakistani parliament through their relentless activism on human rights violations, continue to remain outspoken out against the forces that promote terrorism in Pakistan. Ali Wazir remains incarcerated for the past nine months after he addressed a rally in Karachi, and since then has been denied bail as well. It is well known that he lost 18 family members to the Taliban’s target killers; but so far he stands for elimination of terrorism through peaceful means.  

In 2003, when Al-Qaeda and Taliban retreated into Pakistan, they not only reorganized in Waziristan but also carved out spheres of influence in parts of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As Ali Wazir’s family stood against these developments, the Taliban assassinated Ali Wazir’s elder brother, Farooq Wazir, and it is said to be the first Taliban assassination in Waziristan. In 2005, when Ali Wazir was imprisoned under the predatory Frontier Crimes Regulation rules, his father, Mirza Alam Wazir, was assassinated by the Taliban along with his two sons and two nephews.  Ali Wazir attended the funeral of his father and brother in handcuffs. 

In 2020, Arif Wazir, a cousin of Ali wazir (and a PTM leader) was shot dead outside his home. All these incidents raise questions on Pakistan’s Human Rights record, especially as the authorities have expressed reluctance to investigate such acts committed by non-state actors. In Khabar Pakhtunkhwa areas (including the ex-FATA region) military operations were carried out in the name of War on Terror, and instead of eliminating the terrorists, the destruction of villages and large-scale displacements became a common sight. Pashtun village elders and intellectuals too became prime targets during this phase.

 The PTM has been an institutionalised manifestation of the anger that had simmered in the Pashtun belt for over a decade. Unfortunately, the state of Pakistan has registered hundreds of false cases against PTM activists, including Ali Wazir, for demanding human rights and eliminating terrorists. The PTM’s protests are often characterized with suppressive tactics deployed by the authorities.  In the Kharqamar (North Waziristan), about a dozen PTM activists lost their lives at the hands of the security forces and incidents of torture on women were registered.  Against which the people of the area had staged a sit-in and were demanding justice.  Due to their active participation in Kharqamar, Ali Wazir Mohsin Dawar served a four-month jail term in 2019. 

Even their fellow elected public representatives in the National Assembly were also denied a meeting while they were in jail.  Later, both were honourably acquitted in the case.  A large public meeting of PTM was held in Karachi, Pakistan. Thousands of people attended the meeting.  In a public meeting, Ali Wazir, Mohsin Dawar, Abdullah Nagyal and Manzoor Pashtun demanded the formation of a truth commission, that concerned with the military officers involved in the massacre of Pashtuns. 

 The Sindh government registered cases against Ali Wazir and arranged for his incarceration. As of now, no decision has been made on Ali Wazir’s bail application for several months. The Sindh court reviewed his bail application six months after his arrest and.  Instead of granting bail, the court sent Ali Wazir’s speech for translation to check for seditious content.  And for months, the government has not presented a translation of Ali Wazir’s speech in court. Again, the inordinate delay in Wazir’s case also raised questions on the judicial transparency in the state. The meeting of the Parliamentary Security Council was attended by the chiefs of the Army and the intelligence. There were tough questions from Mohsin Dawar, that remain unanswered. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the People’s Party also appealed to the Army Chief to make arrangements for Wazir’s release. Instead, the Army chief demanded an apology from Wazir if the latter expected reprieve. 

The question arises that, while the Pakistan facilitates Taliban and expresses willingness to negotiate with the TTP (despite accusing it of being supported by India), its reluctance to engage with peaceful activists appears to be puzzling at best. The recent rise in TTP’s attacks on the Pakistan Army are a direct fallout of the events in Afghanistan, yet the PTM are being labelled as a bigger threat. 

Faiz Hameed, the outgoing head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, undertook a visit to Kabul amidst the formation of the new Taliban government in Afghanistan. On the other hand, domestically, atrocities on human rights defenders continue with impunity. 

It remains a big question what the United Nations can set up Truth Commission that could record the mistakes, Human Rights violations and sufferings in the ex-FATA region.  The Taliban leaders who killed thousands of innocent people are not only free, but are few steps away from being recognized as legitimate international actors.  And Ali Wazir, who sacrificed his entire clan by standing up against terrorism languishes in the jail. Could the authorities in Pakistan be pressurised to act?

By Jessica Kroner

Jessica is a Consulting Editor at Peace for Asia. She is a human rights activist with a special interest in Pashtun politics and Pakistan.

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