Pashtun protestors want to settle demands in Pakistan court, vow to continue until demands met
Over 32,000 Pashtuns have gone missing in 10 years as part of a crackdown by Pakistan’s army and ISI
The new movement has struck a chord with thousands of Pashtuns, who are calling for their rights to be protected.
Members of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Tuesday vowed to continue their protest action until their demands regarding the protection of their rights are met.
This also includes being told the whereabouts and/or fate of all those who have gone missing from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) over the past few years.
PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen, in an interview with Al Jazeera, said that the protesters want to settle their demands in court so that there is an “assurance of the agreement”.
According to the organizers of the protest, over 32,000 Pashtuns have gone missing in Pakistan over the past 10 years as part of a crackdown by Pakistan’s military and Pakistan’s intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Until now, families have no knowledge about their fate.
“When I started the movement, I used to go from house to house and tell people what was going on in our area in terms of injustice and atrocities,” protest organizer Manzeen Pashteen told Al Jazeera.
“But most of the time, I would get a reply from them: ‘Pashteen, you will get killed. Don’t do this,” Dawn News quoted Pashteen as saying.
Pashteen also said he was forced to leave his native area, held in unlawful detention and often harassed for suspected links with armed groups in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.
“My father, wife and mother expect every day to hear the news of my death or disappearance. They are worried for me and sometimes angry at me,” he said, adding that he wants a better future for Pashtuns in Pakistan “including my one-month-old daughter”.
Pashtun protestors numbering in their thousands, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Pakistan’s FATA regions , participated in Sunday’s gathering and chanted the slogan da sang azadi da (what kind of freedom is this).
The protests are also attended by the families of the missing people.
The killing of an aspiring model from the community – which makes up about 15 percent of Pakistan’s 207 million population – in January sparked the countrywide protests.
On Sunday, Pashteen led a rally of an estimated 60,000 protestors in Peshawar.
According to RFE/RL’s Radio, the mass demonstration took part despite a media blackout in much of the country on reports about the protest.
The PTM will hold next rallies in Lahore on April 22 and in Swat on April 29.