Pakistani Anti-Terror Court Puts Pashtun Leader At Center Of Protests In Custody
By Radio Mashaal December 19, 2020
An anti-terrorism court in Karachi on December 19 handed over a lawmaker and Pashtun-rights leader to be held in custody for 12 days over a sedition charge that has sparked protests all over northwestern Pakistan.
Lawmaker Ali Wazir was arrested in the city of Peshawar on December 16 after the case was lodged against him in Karachi, alleging he made remarks against the state during an unsanctioned rally 10 days earlier.
Earlier on December 19, Wazir was flown from Peshawar to Karachi.
Wazir's Pashtun Tahafuz Movement ( PTM) rejects the accusation and insists its campaign to defend the rights of ethnic Pashtuns is peaceful and constitutional.
Thousands of people rallied in dozens of cities and towns in northwestern Pakistan and elsewhere on December 18 to protest his arrest.
PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen called for the demonstrations in a live video posted on Facebook late on December 17, after the authorities announced that Ali Wazir would face prosecution.
The PTM movement has campaigned since 2018 for the civil rights of Pakistan's estimated 35 million ethnic Pashtuns, many of whom live near the border of Afghanistan.
It has attracted tens of thousands of people to public rallies in recent years to denounce the powerful Pakistani Army's heavy-handed tactics in its fight against the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.
International rights groups say Pakistani authorities have banned peaceful rallies organized by the PTM, while some of its leading members have also been arbitrarily detained and prevented from traveling within the country.
Some members have also faced charges of sedition and cybercrimes.
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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