English News


Pashtuns in Balochistan in revolt against Islamabad as ethnic nationalism in Pakistan soars

Pashtuns in Pakistan rally against Islamabad (Photo: IANS)

The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) held a protest rally of thousands of people in Balochistan capital Quetta against the imprisonment of its leaders—Ali Wazir and Muhammad Hanif besides putting other civil demands.

PTM leader Ali Wazir, who has been under arrest for 11 months, is Member of Parliament from South Waziristan.

The PTM rally also asked the government to take back the 'Criminal law Ordinance'—by the Balochistan assembly that bans protests in the province. Under the ‘Criminal Law Balochistan Amendment Ordinance’, the government can arrest anyone without warrant for three to six months and impose a fine of Rs 10,000. The ordinance has come into immediate effect.

Significantly, PTM Chief Manzoor Pashteen who addressed the rally also said that Pashtun soldiers in the Pakistani Army and paramilitary forces should not battle Baloch nationalists, reports The Balochistan Post.

The PTM demanded removal of checkpoints, opening up of the Chaman border with Afghanistan, releasing missing persons and ending emergency rule in the region.

It also sought the release of activists Mohib Wazir and Said Rasul, who were arrested for raising their voice against oppression of Pashtuns by Pakistani forces. The leaders also want an end to checkpoints in South Waziristan near the Durand line that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Historically, the Pashtuns have not observed the border as they claim it has divided their community into two countries and has split families.

Over the past few weeks, Balochistan has been riven by protests by unsettled communities and groups putting a harsh light on ham handedness by Pakistani security forces. 

For nearly three weeks, students of the Balochistan University have been on a strike in Quetta demanding that Pakistani forces release two students allegedly kidnapped from their hostel by Pakistani forces. The students have boycotted their classes and examinations while continuing their sit-in at the university campus.

Many of the PTM's demands echo those by Baloch nationalist leaders who have been leading both civil and violent movements against Islamabad. 

Baloch protestors in the port city of Gwadar have blocked roads for a fortnight demanding social development, opening up the Iran border, reducing security checkpoints, improving livelihoods and providing water and electricity to the local people. 

Towns and cities on the entire Makran coastline have joined the agitation demanding more facilities for the Baloch people. They have also threatened to close China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) facilities if their demands are not met as many Baloch feel that the economic benefits due from the mega project have not percolated to the local people.