- PTM leader says 320 missing persons have returned after Islamabad sit-in
LAHORE: Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen, who has been leading a peaceful protest since 2014 against what he describes as oppression of the Pashtuns, paints a bleak picture of the circumstances the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been living in during and after the war on terror, resulting in an exodus of Pashtuns from the war-torn areas.
Pashteen, who had earlier visited Lahore on March 6, returned this time to attend an event titled ‘The Human Cost of Conflict’ at Forman Christian College. The event was moderated by faculty member Dr Saeed Shafqat and the panel included Islam Wazir, a lecturer, and Raza Wazir, a leader of the PTM, besides Pashteen.
In his last visit, he had addressed two separate gatherings, one of which was organised by the Pashtun students of Lahore at a location in Garden Town, while the other was held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).
At the outset, Pashteen narrated the chronology of the happenings that Pashtuns had to go through during the decade-long war on terror that adversely affected Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
He said as a result of a military operation in 2009 in FATA, Mehsud tribe was largely displaced and had to migrate to the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Due to extreme poverty, the people who could afford housing or even tents were fortunate, as many of them were forced to sleep under the trees, the PTM leader recalled.
Pashteen divides the agonies of the IDPs into two categories: economic hardships faced by men and the psychological impacts of the war and displacement on the women and children.
Elaborating on the sufferings of the people of FATA, Pashteen said these details are difficult to contain in words: these people were displaced, killed and looted by Aman Committees.
Talking about the government’s response to their five demands which they had presented in the sit-in protest in Islamabad from February 1 to 10 and were subsequently accepted, he said the work on demining (removal of mines) in the area in South Waziristan has started, which is a rather pleasant development. As many as 320 missing persons out of at least 32, 000 have returned, he said, adding that thousands still remain missing, though.
The demands included the prosecution of Rao Anwar for the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, the formation of an inquiry into extrajudicial killings of Pashtuns in Karachi and elsewhere, an end to collective punishment and discrimination against locals in FATA, removal of landmines from South Waziristan, and recovery of missing persons.
Talking about FIRs registered against him and his comrades in Kila Saifullah, Balochistan, on Wednesday, he said that it was absurd that FIRs under terrorism act were filed against them for speaking against terrorism.
Pashteen also shared how he got involved in the student politics at Gomal University, Dera Ismael Khan, without his parents’ approval and became the president of the Tribal Student Organisation. He used the platform to launch the movement for peace in FATA.
Regarding the role of mainstream media, Pashteen criticised it for not giving coverage to the PTM rallies.
Like his earlier speeches, he ended his address with a lesson to the youth, saying peace and justice could only be sustained through love, harmony, non-violence and eradication of differences through dialogue and understanding. However, he also asked the audience and nation to support the PTM’s cause for justice as he termed his movement apolitical.