The Pashtun community is protesting against repressive tactics that are prevalent in the Pashtun belt of Pakistan. On February 2, 2022, soldiers of the Pakistan Army reportedly fired bullets at PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen and his associates Zubair Shah, Agha Noor Bacha and Asad Qarar. This happened when Manzoor and his friends were returning after attending the 3rd death anniversary gathering of a PTM worker Arman Loni at Qila Saifullah. On February 2, 2019, Arman Loni was beaten to death by the Police when he was leading protests in response to a terrorist attack on the police in Loralai, Balochistan.

The incident took place when they were going from Quetta Zhob Road to DI Khan Road. The soldiers fired around two dozen shots at the car. Manzoor Pashtun Zubair Shah Agha Asad Qarar escaped miraculously but two bullets hit Noor Bacha.

The PTM is one of the largest recent human rights movements in Pakistan, constitutionally fighting for the fundamental rights of Pashtuns and other weaker sections of the Pakistani society. In response, the government banned Manzoor from entering Balochistan. It must be recalled that three years ago Professor Arman Loni was assassinated during a demonstration in Loralai (Balochistan). The third anniversary rally had been surrounded by thousands of armed forces since morning, creating a tense atmosphere.

As soon as the meeting was over, the PTM leaders left Qila Saifullah towards DI Khan and the unknown masked men began chasing the PTM chief Manzoor Pashtun and others. On the way, these armed masked men fired at Manzoor’s vehicle. It would not be an overstatement if we believe that the intent could have been to inflict maximum damage to these activists but fortunately, the leaders were escaped safe. Soon after this, when they got out of the vehicle and requested these masked men to reveal their identities, they were met with refusal.

In the meantime, a large number of PTM sympathizers arrived on the scene in support of Manzoor and his associates. The PTM claims that those involved in this incident include Major Babar, ATF in-charge Bazid, DC Qila Saifullah Hafeez Qasim, AC Qila Saifullah and other officials.

It may be recalled that Badinzai area is part of Zhob district and this fort is beyond the jurisdiction of Qila Saifullah district administration. Thousands of people came out and the protested against what they believed to be deliberate efforts to foment instability in the state. Such resistance is rare in history. It may be recalled that Idris Pashtun and Bilal Mehsud were abducted by the agencies from a PTM vehicle in another PTM car and they went missing.

Slogans of resistance were being chanted as Manzoor and his associates were confronted. The PTM had begun its sit-in at Zhob. The PTM demanded that their forcibly disappeared comrades Idrees Pashtun and Bilal Mehsud be recovered and a case should be registered against the elements who attempted to assassinate Asad Qarar. After recovering Bilal Mehsud and Idrees Pashtun in the middle of the night, a sit-in was called and Zhob DC and AC promised to register a case against Major Babar, ATF in-charge Bazid and others. After this, a meeting of the Central Committee of the PTM was held and it was decided to hold a full-scale protest against the oppression against this movement in every city of Pakistan. Protests against Pakistani authorities took place in almost every city. The major Pashtun political parties Awami National Party, National Democratic Movement and Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party strongly protested against the attack on Manzoor. Pakistan’s National Assembly member and NDM chief Mohsin Dawar called the state attack on PTM leaders the worst example of oppression that was carried out in connivance with state authorities. It appears that these incidents would be a common sight unless the imbalance in the civil-military relations is restored.

 

Images by the author. 

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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