Pakistan court denies bail to prominent Pashtun minority leader arrested for 'sedition'

Peshawar, North-West Frontier, PakistanUpdated: Jan 28, 2020, 08:48 PM IST

File photo. Photograph:(Reuters)

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FIR said that Pashteen also made derogatory comments about the state. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called for Pashteen's "immediate and unconditional" release.

A Pakistani court on Tuesday rejected the transit bail plea of a prominent Pashtun minority leader, known for criticising the country's powerful military, and ordered his transfer to another jail, a day after he was arrested for alleged sedition, leading to calls for his immediate release.

Manzoor Pashteen, chief of the rights-based alliance Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), attended a gathering on January 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Dera Ismail Khan city where he had allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights.

The 27-year-old activist, arrested along with nine other PTM workers from Peshawar, was earlier sent to Peshawar's Central Jail on a 14-day judicial remand by a magistrate. District and sessions judge Muhammad Younis accepted the police's request to shift Pashteen to jail in Dera Ismail Khan, where a first information report (FIR) has been registered against him.

The request of a transit bail to Pashteen, who was represented by his lawyers, was rejected by the court, reports said.

The PTM has been critical of the Army's policies in the restive northwestern tribal areas where a massive operation against terrorists was carried out in recent years, leading to large-scale displacement and enforced disappearances, reports said.

It also calls for ending extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions besides holding the practitioners responsible.

The PTM chief has been booked for criminal intimidation, promoting enmity between different groups, criminal conspiracy, sedition and condemning the creation of the country and advocating the abolishment of its sovereignty, reports said.

The FIR said that Pashteen also made derogatory comments about the state. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International called for Pashteen's "immediate and unconditional" release. "Manzoor Pashteen has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He must be released immediately and unconditionally," it said on Twitter.

Taking to Twitter, senior PTM leader and National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar said, "This is our punishment for demanding our rights in a peaceful and democratic manner. Manzoor's arrest will only strengthen our resolve. We demand the immediate release of Manzoor Pashteen".

"We will devise a strategy after consultations. We are up against those who are most troubled by demands for constitutional rights, and we will continue doing that," he said. Soon after Pashteen's arrest, #ReleaseManzoorPashteen started trending on the micro-blogging site.

In the past, PTM's leaders, including its elected members of Parliament, have been criticised by the Army which alleges it to be running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state's enemies.

The Army had launched a military operation 'Khyber-4' under 'Radd-ul-Fasaad', which roughly translates to 'elimination of discord', to eliminate terrorists and consolidate gains of counter-terrorism operations in the country's restive northwest tribal region.

Meanwhile, the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), in a statement, demanded that Pashteen be released immediately and that a dialogue be initiated between the government and the youth of tribal areas.

The statement said that PTM's demands were "legitimate" and "will not be swept aside by arresting Manzoor Pashteen".