On Sunday, thousands of Pakistanis gathered in Bannu city of Khyber Pakthunkhwa province demanding an end to the atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army. The rally organised by Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) also demonstrated against the Imran Khan-led government. Alleging that the Pakistani Army treated the Pashtuns as third-class citizens, the protesters also revealed that the former indulged in torture and killings.
They also pointed out the lack of development in the areas where the Pashtuns lived. On this occasion, the Pakistani government has ensured a complete media blackout of the protests besides snapping internet services in the region. Meanwhile, the local administration organized sporting events to keep the people away from the PTM protest.
Occupying the north-western territory of the country, Pashtuns are the second-largest ethnic group in Pakistan, representing approximately 15.42% of the population. Despite having a huge representation in the Pakistani Army, they have consistently suffered discrimination at the hands of the authorities. The killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young Pashtun in Karachi on January 13, 2018, led to the advent of the PTM led by Manzoor Pashteen.
Since then, the PTM organized massive rallies in major cities of Pakistan such as Lahore, Karachi, Swat, Peshawar, and Quetta seeking justice for the death of innocent Pashtuns. As the ire of the protesters was directed at the Pakistani Army, the latter started propaganda about a foreign conspiracy. Despite the opposition’s charge of massive rigging in the 2019 General Election in Pakistan, the Army was unable to prevent the election of PTM members Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir.
Both the Pakistani government as well as the Army has done everything possible to crush the spirit of the PTM. For instance, parliamentarians Dawar and Wazir were arrested on charges of terrorism after a clash between PTM activists and Army troops at a security post in May 2018. They languished in jail for 4 months before being granted bail.
Apart from seeking justice for Pashtuns, the PTM leaders have also been at the forefront of the struggle for civilian supremacy. This was evident from the fact that Dawar and Wazir were the only parliamentarians to vote against the extension of Pakistani Army Chief Qamar Bajwa. On the other hand, all the mainstream parties including the opposition PML-N and PPP gave unconditional support to the extension.