A Non-Violent Movement is Gaining Ground in Pakistan

Source: New Internationalist

I met Manzoor Pashteen, Pakistan’s most popular non-violent activist, in Islamabad. He is in his 20s, and comes wearing a red cap and blue shalwar kameez. Propelled to the centre of Pakistan’s political sphere, Manzoor has become the voice of a generation through his leadership of the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement (PTM).

With his calls for justice in the tribal belt – one of Pakistan’s most troubled regions – Manzoor grew the movement from 20 to 20,000 supporters.

Arising out of the Pakistani state’s long-running and fraught relationship with Pasthuns, an ethnic minority from the country’s northern regions, the movement hit the headlines following the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a Pashtun aspiring model-cum-shopkeeper from the northern region of Waziristan who was gunned down by police in Karachi.

Mehsud’s home region, Waziristan, is also the birthplace of PTM. It’s an area that in the 21st century had no judiciary, until recently with the appointment of seven tribal judges. Previously, legal jurisdiction was governed by Frontier Crimes Regulation Law enforcement which a remained a symbolic duty subject to governance informed by British colonial-era legacy. This law was contentious because it denied communities access to courts, creating a situation whereby collective punishment was enforced including property destruction.

This belt was heavily affected by the so-called War on Terror. The militancy in FATA has occurred with the parallel development of Talibanisation of the tribal areas. A 2012 report by Amnesty International report documents human rights violations during arrests and detentions by the Pakistan Armed Forces and human rights abuses by the Taliban in the FATA. The Pakistani government and the Taliban have been locked in a perpetual state of lawlessness that has led to significant violations. Consequently, according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that between 2004- 2017 400,000 people were forced to flee the Pashtun belt.

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