Ali Wazir, the central leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and Pakistan’s elected member of the National Assembly, has been in jail for 15 months now. He was arrested from Peshawar on the orders of the Sindh government and brought to Karachi. The Sindh government registered cases against Manzoor Pashteen, Ali Wazir, Zubair Shah Agha, Mohsin Dawar and others on the charge of making provocative speeches. This goes against the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan, which gives every Pakistani citizen the right to protest and freedom of expression.
The PTM is arguably the largest human rights movement in South Asia. In the name of the war on terror, operations were carried out in Pashtun areas of Pakistan in which more than 17,000 innocent Pashtuns were killed. Hundreds of thousands of young people went missing.
The PTM is demanding a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into the damage inflicted on the Pashtun community in the name of the War on Terror and numerous other military operations that devastated the FATA region over the last two decades. The PTM has so far staged 115 protest rallies in Pakistan as well as in other countries outside Pakistan (particularly in Europe and North America which have a significant expatriate Pashtun population). The protests have usually taken the shape of sit-ins in front of Pakistani embassies besides major public rallies in Pakistan. Recently, a long sit-in had been organized in front of the Provincial Assembly of Sindh to demand Ali Wazir’s release. Millions of people participated in these demonstrations, rallies and sit-ins. Despite overwhelming support for Ali Wazir by the Pakistani civil society and certain political groups, it is visible that the higher judiciary is functioning under the pressure of the Pakistani establishment. Those judges who have refused to follow the establishment’s writ have faced harassment and slander at the hands of the agencies.
Only recently, Qazi Tahir, who is part of the PTM Sindh chapter, was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Anti-Terrorism Court on March 2, 2022. As expected, he was slapped with sedition charges for his partition and speech in a PTM rally held in December 2020. Ali Wazir, Hanif Pashtun and Owais Abdal have been denied bail for the last two years. In the social media domain, PTM central leader Zubair Shah Agha conveyed through his Twitter account that the PTM was protesting against the release of Ali Wazir and other friends, and the sentencing of Qazi Tahir to life imprisonment. The Pashtun community organized protests in different European cities last month where it highlighted the denial of justice and the unending cycle of violence in the tribal areas.
The PTM appeals to the international community to take notice of these issues.