Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) chief Manzoor Pashteen was arrested from Shaheen Town, Peshawar during the early hours of Monday morning, officials said.

Police also arrested nine other PTM workers who were identified as Muhammad Salam, Abdul Hameed, Idrees, Bilal, Mohib, Sajjadul Hassan, Aimal, Farooq and Muhammad Salman.

Tahkal police station official Shiraz Khan confirmed the arrest. The police official said that the PTM chief is currently in Peshawar in police custody but will be shifted to Dera Ismail Khan where an FIR has been registered against him.

Police will present Pashteen before a judicial magistrate for his transitory remand, he added.

According to police, a case was registered against the PTM chief at the City police station in DI Khan on Jan 18 under sections 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 124 (sedition), and 123-A (condemning the creation of the country and advocating the abolishment of its sovereignty) of the Pakistan Penal Code.

According to the FIR,Pashteen and other PTM leaders had attended a gathering on Jan 18 in DI Khan where the PTM chief had allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights.

The FIR added that Pashteen also made derogatory comments about the state.

Taking to Twitter, senior PTM leader and MNA Mohsin Dawar said: “This is our punishment for demanding our rights in a peaceful and democratic manner. Manzoor’s arrest will only strengthen our resolve. We demand the immediate release of Manzoor Pashteen.”

He urged PTM workers and supporters to remain calm in the wake of the arrest. “We will devise a strategy after consultations. We are up against those who are most troubled by demands for constitutional rights, and we will continue doing that.”

He announced that PTM will hold an emergency press conference at the Islamabad Press Club at 3pm and urged party workers to show their support.

Human rights group Amnesty International also called for Pashteen’s “immediate and unconditional” release.

Taking to Twitter, the group said: “Manzoor Pashteen has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

Following Pashteen’s arrest, #ReleaseManzoorPashteen started trending on Twitter with various politicians and human rights activists calling for his release.

PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.

The party has been critical of the army’s policies in the country’s tribal belt, where a massive operation against terrorists was conducted in recent times leading to large-scale displacement and enforced disappearances.

PTM’s leaders, in particular its elected members to the National Assembly, have come under fire from the military for pursuing the release of individuals detained by authorities without due process. The army alleges the party of running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state’s enemies.

Last year, two of PTM’s MNAs — Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir — were arrested by police from a protest gathering in Kharqamar for allegedly using violence and clashing with army personnel. The party while rejecting these allegations, insisted that theirs is a peaceful struggle for the rights of people from the country’s tribal belt.

Published on Public Hours January 27th, 2020

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