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Beijing-Islamabad nexus turns the heat on Pakistan's religious minorities

Beijing-Islamabad nexus turns the heat on Pakistan's religious minorities

Soon after the brutal murder of 11 coal miners of the Pakistan's Hazara minority community, which drew international condemnation, human rights of Pashtuns have also come under the scanner.  The Pashtuns have been rocked with a series of arbitrary detentions by state authorities at the behest of Pakistan's intelligence agencies at the forefront of targeting country's religious minorities.

After the shock police custody of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Ali Wazir — a sitting member of the Pakistan parliament — on charges of hate speech, another senior leader of PTM and a senior Pashtun politician, Dr Said Alam Mehsud was arbitrarily arrested from his home on January 3. As if that were not enough, the Pashtuns were in for more shock and disbelief after Sanna Ejaz, a human rights worker and a PTM member, was arrested along with 45 other PTM activists in Peshawar on Wednesday.

The series of arbitrary detentions and persecution of Pashtuns who have been peacefully protesting economic exploitation, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and arbitrary detentions of Pashtuns in the Pakhtunkhwa and tribal areas of Pakistan has been condemned the world over.

"Authorities must immediately and unconditionally release protestors belonging to the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement who have been arbitrarily detained in Peshawar," said Amnesty International South Asia.

<img class="alignnone wp-image-57289 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Release-Said-Alam-Mehsud.jpg" alt="Release Said Alam Mehsud Pakistan Religious Minorities " width="960" height="720" />

While the Pashtun movement for self-determination has a long history, a new wave of brutal repression has begun, after the Pakistan and China bonded to develop the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The risk-averse Chinese have been prodding the Pakistanis to ensure the security of their project, which mostly passes through three major sensitive zones — Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan claimed by India, and China's restive Xinjiang Autonomous Region.

Xinjiang, where a separatist movement is raging, is at the heart of the China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which CPEC is the flagship. China's BRI has therefore become a critical factor in the gross human rights violations of Pakistan's ethnic minorities.

Unsurprisingly, the Imran Khan government is facing the heat after global condemnation over the killing of Hazaras from the minority Shia community earlier this week. The mysterious death of eminent Baloch activist Karima Baloch in Canada's Toronto last month has added further international pressure on Islamabad, which is already reeling under the weight of the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) opposition alliance through its various marches and rallies since October.

"This hybrid regime has lost its marbles but then did it ever have marbles. They think by arresting PTM workers and disappearing Baloch they will succeed in crushing the Pashtun and Baloch Rights. That is what they did in #Bangladesh and got their just desserts. Release @sanaejaz2," tweeted Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur who has been vehemently condemning the enforced disappearances in Balochistan and Sindh for years now.

The Pashtuns have maintained that PTM is a non-violent and peaceful civil movement which strives for peace and basic rights to live in Pakistan and that the arrests of its top leaders and activists reflect a "senseless" violation of fundamental human rights.

<img class="alignnone wp-image-57291" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Manzoor-Pashteen.jpg" alt="Manzoor Pashteen" width="510" height="225" />

"PTM started its activities in 2018 against the extra-judiciaI killings, enforced disappearances and demolition of entire Pashtun cities and towns by Pakistani army in Waziristan and other Pashtun areas under the auspice of "war on terror" in Pakistan," the Pashtun Council of Canada said in a statement Tuesday.

"Pakistani state security agencies have murdered and arbitrarily detained numerous PTM leaders and activists. Dr Said Alam Mehsud's peaceful political struggle for the rights of Pashtuns and peace in Pashtun <em>watan</em> spans several decades. He raised his voice and mobilized Pashtun masses and intellectuals against terrorism and its state sponsors. He has saved the lives of thousands of children as a professor of pediatric surgery," the statement sent to the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

The Pashtuns have appealed to the United Nations Human Rights Council, international human rights organisations, European Parliament and "friendly governments supporting the cause of justice and human rights" to put pressure on Pakistan to immediately release the PTM activists.

The PTM USA has also decided to hold a demonstration outside the residence of the Pakistani ambassador to the United States on Saturday in Washington. Not that the massive humiliation and worrying situation bothers the Pakistani authorities much. Their embassies around the world are now used to playing host to such demonstrations. As <a href="https://indianarrative.com/world/shia-hazara-massacre-pakistanis-protest-outside-their-consulate-general-in-new-york-56361.html"><strong>reported</strong> </a>by IndiaNarrative.com yesterday, hundreds of Pakistani expats had gathered outside the Consulate General of Pakistan in New York on Tuesday, demanding end of impunity enjoyed by the terrorists involved in Hazara genocide in Balochistan.

Dozens of protest rallies have also been held in North America, Europe and in Pakistan over the past few weeks demanding a thorough probe into the death of Karima Baloch even as the Pakistani deep state continues to persecute people with impunity because of their religious beliefs.

<img class="wp-image-57290 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/justice-for-karima-baloch.jpg" alt="justice for karima baloch Pakistan Religious Minorities " width="960" height="540" /> Baloch activists, demanding probe in the death of Karima Baloch, participate in a demonstration in Germany

Two months ago, US Congressmen Brad Sherman and Jamie Raskin had introduced a bill for consideration calling for an end to enforced disappearances in Asia and around the world and calling upon the United States to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Besides mentioning the atrocities committed against the Uyghurs Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/1231/text"><strong>resolution</strong></a> also detailed that the majority of the victims of enforced disappearances in Pakistan are Baloch, Pashtun, or Sindhi.

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"The Government of Pakistan has not adequately investigated and held perpetrators of enforced disappearances responsible. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance has described a “culture of entrenched impunity” regarding the practice of enforced disappearances in Pakistan," it stated.

It is after all this "culture of entrenched impunity" which has resulted in a staggering increase in ill-treatment of minorities in Pakistan even after the US redesignating it as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC. The Imran Khan government continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).