01/29/2020, 17.59
PAKISTAN
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Pashtun movement protests continue. One lawyer freed, 23 still in prison

Demonstrations in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia.  Members of the Pashtun ethnic group are demanding the release of Manzoor Pashteen, the charismatic leader of their movement arrested on charges of sedition.  Lawyer: "Speak up and be counted, your life means nothing if you don't have the freedom to disagree."

 

 

 

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Pakistani authorities this morning released a lawyer from the Pashtun movement arrested yesterday during a demonstration in Islamabad. 

Mohsin Dawar arrested  by the police while participating in a rally of activists calling for the release of the charismatic leader of the movement, Manzoor Pashteen confirmed he had been let go.  Meanwhile protests by human rights defenders continue throughout Pakistan as a further  23 people remain behind the prison doors on charges of sedition.

Yesterday demonstrations in support of the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Ptm) were held over 20 cities in the country - Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar, to name a few - in Afghanistan and other parts of the world where the Pasthun diaspora is present (Europe, North America and Australia). 

Thousands protested against Pashteen's arrest two days ago in Peshawar.  He is currently located in Dera Ismail Khan, a remote location in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  Instead the 23 people arrested yesterday in the capital, in front of the national press club, were taken today to Adiala Jail, the central prison of Rawalpindi.

The arrest of the young PTM leader sparked protests from civil society and organizations that share the demands for greater democracy and freedom of expression in Pakistan.  Pashteen was indicted on charges of sedition, conspiracy and incitement to public disorder for a speech deemed offensive against the state delivered on January 18. 

In reality, the group he leads and various international associations believe that the arrest is a revenge by the military for his criticism of army power and the forced disappearances of the members of the ethnic minority to which he belongs.

On his Twitter profile, the lawyer Dawar complains that in the meeting in Islamabad "there was not even an episode of violence" and highlights the "peaceful" nature of the demonstrations.  However, he continues, "the state reminds us once again that our rights don't matter that much, since they didn't even deign to create inconsistent grounds for our arrests."  "Because our freedoms are narrowing - he continues - silence is not an option.  The struggle to regain our right to dissent is a common cause that transcends ethnicity and belief. "  Finally he exhorts: "Speak up and be counted, your life means nothing if you don't have the freedom to disagree."

The PTM represents the tribal minority in the region known in the past as "Federally Administered Tribal Areas, FATA", later annexed to the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.  In recent years the area has experienced intense infiltration of Taliban militants from Afghanistan, followed by the government's military counter-offensive and attacks by US drones.  The group organized numerous protests to denounce government responsibilities in killings outside the courts, enforced disappearances and mine victims.

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