Even in Ramadan (Ramzan in India), the month of atonement in Islam, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan continues its crackdown on its Pashtun population. The news that Arif Wazir, the leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), has been killed in this operation has just arrived.
Yesterday, which was the first Friday of the holy month in the Hijri calendar, unidentified persons opened fire at Wazir near his house in Waza, the South Waziristan district of the country’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Pashtun leader, who had come out on bail nearly a month ago, was rushed to a nearby hospital before being moved to Islamabad for medical treatment but could not be saved.
The leader’s cousin, Muhammad Ali Wazir, said in a statement that the PTM leader had received three bullet injuries to his body.
Afghanistan condoled the death, with Fazel Fazly, Director General, Administrative Office of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, saying on Twitter, “Devastated to hear about the loss of Arif Wazir. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and #PTM. Despite losing many loved ones in similar fashion Arif Wazir campaigned for non-violence. His advocacy and activism must not go in vain. Rest in peace brother!”
The killing of Wazir highlights the Islamic Republic’s sustained intimidation, censorship, arrests and persecution of Pashtuns and the crushing of the PTM. The movement stands for the rights of ethnic Pashtuns.
On 27 May 2019, large scale anti-Pakistan protests had broken out in Peshawar, Swat, Dera Ismail Khan, Quetta and other towns in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces, following the killing of three leading ethnic Pashtun activists in the northwestern tribal region.
Since it was founded in 2018, the PTM has organised regular demonstrations against Pakistan Army’s heavy-handed operations in tribal regions. The PTM demands judicial probes into the killings by the military and campaigns against extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and discrimination against Pashtuns — things the Islamic Republic does not like. Islamabad chooses to crush the civil rights movement with brute force.
Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khwaja Asif had acknowledged last year in the country’s parliament that Islamabad “exploited” the Pashtun homeland for decades.
Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, last year said that it has “documented systematic attacks against the PTM with scores of peaceful protesters arbitrarily arrested, detained, and prosecuted on spurious charges, while protests by the PTM have been obstructed.” In their statement, it urged the Islamic Republic to “end their judicial persecution” of Gulalai Ismail, a PTM leader and human rights activist.
Earlier this year in January, Pakistani police took PTM leader and lawmaker Mohsin Dawar into custody with 28 others while they were holding a peaceful protest outside Islamabad’s National Press Club against the arbitrary arrest of Pashtun activist Manzoor Pashteen. Those arrested included civil society members and PTM activists among others, including three women. Six, including Mohsin Dawar, were released but 23 others were sent to Adiala jail on judicial remand.
“We are writing to you to express our serious concerns over the arbitrary arrests of activists from the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) over the last week.
On 27 January 2020, PTM leader and activist Manzoor Pashteen was arbitrarily arrested in Peshawar for criticising government policies based on a speech he gave on 18 January in Bannu,” CIVICUS wrote to Shireen M Mazari, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Human Rights Ministry of Human Rights. Later, Manzoor Pashteen was released on bail on 25 January.
Amnesty International on Saturday said the authorities must carry out an effective probe into the attack on Arif Wazir, and suspected perpetrators must be held accountable.