Pakistan army warns Pashtun rights movement not to cross ‘line’

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Ali Wazir (L) and Mohsin Dawar, leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). (REUTERS File Photo)
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Ali Wazir (L) and Mohsin Dawar, leaders of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). (REUTERS File Photo)
Updated 07 December 2018

Pakistan army warns Pashtun rights movement not to cross ‘line’

  • Backs US peace talks with the Afghan Taliban
  • Says India deliberately targeting civilians on line of control 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor said Thursday the army had made all efforts to meet the demands of a Pashtun ethnic rights movement, the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), and warned its activists of a crackdown if they crossed a "line."

The comments by Ghafoor at a press conference came just days after Ali Wazir, the co-founder of PTM, and Mohsin Dawar, one of its main leaders, were barred from leaving the country and briefly detained.

The PTM was founded last January to protest alleged extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and “disappearances” of young ethnic Pashtun men under the guise of operations against the Pakistani Taliban and other militants in the country’s northwestern tribal regions. Leaders of the movement blame Pakistan’s military for these abuses, which the army strongly denies.

While PTM has attracted thousands of people to rallies around the country, the movement had also been met with criticism for raising anti-army slogans and disrespecting thousands of soldiers martyred in the war on terror.

"They are our people, they are hurt and have suffered losses, but still they haven’t resorted to violence till now therefore we have dealt with them politely,” Ghafoor said.

"But now they are heading in a direction where the situation might arise that they cross a line.  We request them not to cross that line where the state is compelled to use authority to control them."

In April, Pakistan's powerful army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also criticized PTM for taking aim at the army.

“Some internal and external elements are hell-bent upon harming Pakistan’s national security. But I want to tell them that the armed forces with the support of the people of Pakistan will not let their ulterior motives to succeed," Bajwa said.

PTM gained momentum after the killing of aspiring model and shopkeeper, Naqeebullah Mehsud, by police in the port city of Karachi in January. Pashtuns thus began a peaceful sit-in in Islamabad demanding the abolition of the colonial-era Frontier Crimes Regulation law that applies to the tribal areas where most Pashtuns reside; the release of all political prisoners; the removal of landmines and army checkpoints from the tribal areas; and the recovery of missing people.
Ghafoor told the media that check posts had been reduced from 469 to 331 since 2016, 44 percent landmines had already been cleared and 4,000 out of 7,000 pending cases of missing persons had been settled.

Speaking about the recently concluded visit to Pakistan of U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, the army's spokesman said the army fully supported latest U.S. efforts for dialogue with the Afghan Taliban to end war in neighbouring Afghanistan.

"As much as we can, we will facilitate,” Ghafoor said when asked what Pakistan could do to help the United States negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban.

The military spokesman also raised concerns over increasing ceasefire violations by India on the Line of Control and Working Boundary. He said 55 civilians had been martyred by Indian forces this year, the highest in history. He said Indian forces were deliberately targeting civilians.

Answering questions about censorship in Pakistan media, the army spokesman denied the military was behind any moves to censor the media but urged it to play an "effective role in projecting a soft image of Pakistan."

Pakistan gets ready to woo Saudi crown prince

Updated 15 February 2019

Pakistan gets ready to woo Saudi crown prince

  • Pakistan is collecting 3,500 pigeons and colorful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Crown Prince
  • Pakistan expects to sign multiple investment deals and other agreements during the two-day visit

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was rescheduling flights, blocking-off luxury hotels, and — according to one report Friday — collecting 3,500 pigeons and colorful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the two-day visit, which begins Saturday and will include talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and the powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.
Banners heralding the crown prince were already lining the streets of the capital Friday, while the Express Tribune newspaper reported that authorities were trying to catch so many pigeons for a welcome ceremony that they were forced to collect birds from other cities.
Police, the armed forces, and the Saudi Royal Guards will provide security, a senior Islamabad police official told AFP.
The capital’s “red zone,” which houses Parliament House and the Presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the prince’s arrival and departure.
Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as the rooms will be reserved for the prince’s entourage.
Earlier in the week local media reported that the crown prince’s personal belongings — including luxury vehicles and his own gym — were flown to Pakistan in two C130 airplanes.
The visit came as regional tensions spiked after neighboring India accused Islamabad of harboring militants behind a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir.
At least 41 paramilitary troops were killed in a suicide blast Thursday, with Indian media reporting that the Pakistan-based Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility.
Saudi Arabia is reportedly preparing to sign a record investment package with Pakistan, including a $10-billion refinery and oil complex for the strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.
Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman said Islamabad is seeking to sign a number of other deals, including one “combating organized crime.”
Khan has been courting its Gulf allies for months as he seeks to stave off an ongoing balance of payments crisis and reduce the size of any potential bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have together offered Islamabad some $30 billion in investment and loans.
Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are also participating in talks with the US and other countries seeking to bring the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations with Kabul after more than 17 years of war.
The Taliban have claimed their representatives will visit Islamabad on Monday, after Salman leaves.