When Peaceful Protest Became Treason in Pakistan

Source: YouTube

Pakistan is a funny country. We have been taught as citizens growing up by state propaganda to pledge our unity under one flag and that all the people in Pakistan are equal citizens. However, as we grow up and the reality of the country dawns on us, it becomes evidently clear that some people are more equal than others.

Perhaps no political movement has revealed this notion in recent years more than Manzoor Pashteen’s Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. It has become perhaps the largest non-violent civil rights movement of its kind in a country that has largely discouraged democratic ideas and protests. However, it would be unfair to say that the people of Pakistan have not been democratic or focused on civil rights, considering the various progressive movements, albeit failed, throughout the history of Pakistan. In that tradition, the stand that the young leaders of the Awami Workers Party has taken has been nothing short of heroic.

When Pakistan is declaring bright young political leaders such as Ammar Rashid as a traitor. There were around two dozens other political workers who were arrested during a non-violent and peaceful protest demanding the release of Manzoor Pashteen in Islamabad. The brutal police crackdown made a mockery of the claims of the current government’s claims of democratic values.

Source: Awami Workers Party

Ammar Rashid and other young AWP workers were arrested and charged with sedition and terrorism. Earlier, the organizers of the Student Solidarity March were also arrested and charged with sedition, and those arrested included Lala Iqbal, the father of Mishaal Khan, the martyred progressive student of the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, for alleged blasphemy.

The authoritarian regime in Pakistan is trying to intimidate anyone who has a dissenting voice, especially anybody going anywhere near the message of Manzoor Pashteen. A person like me would think twice and neither do I care enough about Pakistan to spend a night in jail, let alone two weeks like Ammar. Undeterred, Ammar and his comrades displayed courage in the face of harassment and intimidation and endured the harsh jail term

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We certainly have bigger civil rights resistance heroes like Manzoor Pashteen, Ali Wazir, and Mohsin Dawar, but Ammar Rashid is most certainly a hero for progressive politics and the cause of the people of Pakistan. Ammar’s struggle is important because someone from the strongholds of the Punjabi ethnic majority needs to stand up for the civil rights of all Pakistanis too. Ammar is one of such political leaders, although not well known by most of the voters in his constituency of NA-53 in Islamabad. Not only that, He has always been on the forefront by demanding people’s rights from issues such as rescuing Islamabad’s razed Afghan refugee slum to protesting against the Blasphemy law and the rights of students to form political unions, he has always led the right causes for civil rights.

I don’t know about others but Ammar Rashid has truly earned his vote for me as a progressive leader pursuing civil rights.

The Arrest of Awami Workers Party Protesters: Pakistan’s Fascism on Full Display

Source: Express Tribune

Manzoor Pashteen has become a symbol of resistance in Pakistan. He is singlehandedly freaking the Pakistani authorities out and bringing out the worst in them. Of course, he would argue that what his people have been going through at the hands of the Pakistani military is far worse. He was recently arrested in Peshawar following a peaceful rally. He was charged with sedition and terrorism. This probably did not come much as a surprise to many following the threats issued by the former DG ISPR.

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However, in the manner that the Islamabad police raided and arrested the peaceful protesters raising their voice against the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen only strengthened his criticism of the state. Perhaps in the most brutal crackdown on an obviously peaceful protest in the capital’s history, the police raided and assaulted the political workers of the Awami Workers Party expressing solidarity with the PTM in the protest space of the Islamabad Press Club.

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Islamabad Police had physically assaulted Ismat Shahjahan, the veteran leader of Awami Workers Party and the Women Democratic Front, and arrested several Awami Workers Party leaders, most prominently Ammar Rashid, a candidate from NA-53 constituency, and others such as Nofel Saleemi. Tooba Syed was spared somehow but at least she was free to tell the story. Waziristan MP and PTM mouthpiece Mohsin Dawar was also manhandled and arrested in the raid and later released. A day ago, he was a part of the press conference explaining the position of the PTM along with Senator Afrasiab Khattak, former MP Bushra Gohar, and Shahjahan.

Manzoor Pashteen himself was arrested under the charges of sedition. Cases against him are a pattern now which the state uses to arrest and abduct the activists of this non-violent movement, most probably for making “anti-national comments.” This time around, the charge of “conspiracy” has been added, which is very consistent with the rhetoric initiated by the former DG ISPR and which will be continued by the military establishment. These charges allude to the fact that Pashteen and his movement are the proxies of Afghanistan, another unfriendly neighbor of Pakistan. The news of the arrest even made it to the New York Times and other global publications, reminding the world that Pakistan does not enjoy the moral authority to lecture India on political repression and violating fundamental constitutional rights.

The shameless face of the fascism of the PTI government and the hybrid Bajwa-Imran regime is the Interior Minister Ijaz Shah. Not only does he f, he lies when he alleges that the peaceful protesters of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement have committed a crime. He should also elaborate on the “crimes” committed by the brave and peaceful political workers of the Awami Workers Party.

Let Pakistan’s fascism be out there for the world to see. But the people who need to see it the most and understand what that means are Pakistani citizens more than anyone else.

Every citizen must be ashamed of a state and a country like Pakistan.