Pakistan: End reprisal and crackdown against Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement
14 January 2021 12:55 pm

(Bangkok/Kathmandu, 14 January 2021) – The recent arrests of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders by Pakistani authorities signal the deteriorating space for civic freedoms in the country, said the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) in a statement today.

‘The arrests of Ali Wazir and Dr. Said Alam Mehsud also demonstrate the continued reprisals and crackdown on minority rights defenders in the country,’ said FORUM-ASIA’s Executive Director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.

‘ PTM, a peaceful civil movement advocating for the rights of the ethnic Pashtun community has long been targeted and attacked by state authorities for their work against injustice faced by the Pashtun and other minority groups in the country. The Pakistani authorities should address the concerns of minority groups including Pashtuns and Baloch, end human rights violations against them, and create a safe environment for defenders to work free from reprisals,’ she said.

Since its formation in 2018, PTM has been demanding an independent truth and reconciliation commission to investigate extrajudicial killings and the enforced disappearances of Pashtuns.

However, instead of working towards addressing PTM’s demands, Pakistani authorities have used various tactics to suppress the movement through arrests of their members, false accusations of sedition,[1] media censorship,[2] and restrict freedom of assembly. On 1 May 2020, Arif Wazir, a leader of PTM and member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly was shot dead by unidentified gunmen.[3]

‘The arrests of PTM leaders are meant to suppress and silence the voices from minority groups. This State-led pressure on dissent has also led to the censorship of media from reporting stories related to minority rights,’ said Shamini.

FORUM-ASIA reiterates[4] its calls to the Pakistani government to immediately end all forms of harassment and intimidation of minority rights defenders, especially PTM activists, and to safeguard their right to dissent and freedom of peaceful assembly. The Pakistani government should ensure a safe environment for human rights defenders to carry out their peaceful and legitimate human rights work.

Background note to the Editor:

Pashtuns are ethnic-linguistic minorities living in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. The Pashtun community has been devastated by the decade-long ‘war on terror’ in northwest Pakistan, as they were caught in the fight between the Pakistani army and militants.

Millions of Pashtuns were internally displaced due to military operations and the fear of extrajudicial killings, drone strikes, and enforced disappearances.[5] As a result, the region remains impoverished and underdeveloped for a long time. Religious minority groups such as Shias, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs are also being persecuted in Pakistan, alongside the ethnic minorities such as Pashtuns and Baloch.

The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement advocates for the rights of ethnic Pashtuns and campaigns against enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings by the Pakistani government against Pashtun community. Since their inception in January 2018, leaders and members of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, are being targeted by the Pakistani authorities.

For further information, please contact:

  • South Asia Programme, FORUM-ASIA, sasia@forum-asia.org

For media inquiries, please contact:

  • Melissa Ananthraj, Communication and Media Programme Manager, FORUM-ASIA, communication@forum-asia.org

[1] https://www.dawn.com/news/1406903

[2] https://www.voanews.com/south-central-asia/pakistan-tightens-coverage-pashtun-rights-movement

[3] https://hrdmemorial.org/hrdrecord/arif-wazir/

[4] https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=30836

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/11/opinion/pashtun-protests-pakistan.html

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For a PDF version of this statement, click here