- PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen announces to hold rally in Karachi on May 12
LAHORE: The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) managed to attract an impressive crowd against all odds at Lahore’s famous Mochi Gate, as thousands of Pashtuns and local Lahoris thronged to listen to PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen and stand in solidarity with the movement on Sunday.
Manzoor Pashteen arrived at Mochi Gate to tremendous applause as his supporters welcomed him in a flurry of chants, after which he spoke at length to the assembled masses, announcing that the PTM would hold their next rally in Karachi on May 12.
The Lahore rally, which had been announced by Pashteen at his mammoth protest in Peshawar, had faced uncertainty after a series of incidents took place which had threatened it taking place.
These included the refusal of the district administration to grant the organisers permission to hold the rally, the arrest of at least a dozen members of the PTM, including senior leadership, and the arrest of Pashtun students at Punjab University. Despite this, the PTM maintained their resolve to hold the rally, after which the Mochi Gate ground was flooded with sewage early on Sunday morning.
Despite these setbacks, large caravans of university students, Pashtuns from far flung areas and from the inner city made their way in groups to Mochi Gate, which was filled with the black and white flags of the PTM, and resounding with the movement’s Pashto songs.
“These people have tried to sabotage our rally by flooding it with filthy water, they are filthy people so they have done this deed, and we are clean people so we have cleaned this mess,” said Manzoor Pashteen to his followers, referring to the attempts to disrupt the rally.
Pashteen had come to the podium in a flurry of cries, applause and slogans as he urged the crowd to settle down and wait for the maghrib azan to end before he began speaking.
“Our first demand was the arrest of Rao Anwar and justice for Naqeebullah Mehsud. Our second demand is to put an end to extrajudicial killings and bring the perpetrators to justice, so that the thousands of Pashtuns who do not have the basic right to life can have justice,” said Manzoor addressing the crowd who rose in thundering applause.
Manzoor’s speech contained a number of harrowing tales of people from Waziristan, as he called out the military establishment for their role in the strife of Pashtuns in the tribal areas.
“Who is behind this media blackout? Who is responsible for our rally not being allowed?” he said to which the crowd responded with “the military.”
Manzoor went on to explain how just recently a solider had been martyred in an attack in North Waziristan, after which activists of the PTM had been picked up and harassed by state functionaries. The PTM leader urged the army to look into its conscience and not take part in acts that could have such effects on peaceful citizens.
“I urge our soldiers to not obey the unconstitutional orders of their Generals for their own sake,” said Manzoor.
“When I say that the military is responsible for our plight, I speak of the powerful Generals who control this country, not the normal soldier,” he said to the crowd’s delight.
“I am here today to plead our case to the people of Punjab, who stand here with us today, and to speak for the downtrodden,” he said to the crowd speaking in Urdu.
“God has told us to speak the truth and stand up for the weak, Islam has told us to speak for the weak, Pashtunwali has told us to stand with the weak,” he said bringing the crowd to their feet.
“You can follow your filthy ways, but we will not do so. We will follow our Pashtunwali and the way of the Prophet,” he went on.
“You call us traitors, but we prove through the constitution who is the traitor. It is these generals that have abrogated the constitution and ignored article 6 and article 19 again and again. You are the traitors not us,” he said.
“Who are these dual nationality holders that dare to question our nationality?” he questioned.
Manzoor also spoke at length about the role of the media in the current movement and, made fresh demands, warning that the restraint that the PTM had shown until now would not be a courtesy extended much longer.
“We are a peaceful movement and we are a peace loving people, but we are also young, and our patience does not last forever. So it is on you if this movement takes a different turn,” he warned.
“The more hardship you bring the more resolved we will become. The Punjab police which have arrested our brothers and done us these injustices, I want to remind you that you too will be questioned one day,” he asserted.
“The Pashtun youth has mobilised. We will not rest until we have an end to extrajudicial killings. We will not rest until we have our Truth and reconciliation commission which will give us justice for the APS massacre,” he said referring to the claims made by Advocate Fazal earlier at the rally.
Before Manzoor had spoken, Fazal, a father one of those that died in the APS tragedy had accused the military establishment of being behind the APS incident.
“Manzoor Pashteen is not an agent of RAW or NDS, but he is an agent of the martyrs of APS, and it is the martyrs of APS who are funding the PTM,” he said to the crowds’ roaring approval.
Other speakers at the rally included senior PTM members including Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, both of whom criticised the troubles that had been created for the PTM during the past few days in Lahore, and the unexplained detention of their leaders and supporters. Lawyer and activist Hina Jilani also addressed the crowd along with other members of the Lahore Left Front, whom Manzoor thanked for their help in the organisation of the rally.
Security arrangements on the occasion had been provided by the police. The police officials on the ground however admitted that not enough men had been deputed for such a large gathering, and the PTM had to do secondary security checks and stage management on their own.