Pakistan arrests human rights leader who criticized army

Manzoor Pashteen heads the Pashtun Protection Movement, which has emerged as a force among the country’s Pashtun minority. (AFP)
Updated 27 January 2020

Pakistan arrests human rights leader who criticized army

  • Manzoor Pashteen was detained along with six others in a pre-dawn raid in the northwestern city of Peshawar
  • Pashteen was apparently arrested on charges of attending anti-government rallies

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Pakistani security forces on Monday arrested the leader of a human rights group that has accused the military of committing widespread abuses in its war on terror,
Manzoor Pashteen was detained along with six others in a pre-dawn raid in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said Javed Khan, a local police official. He said Pashteen was arrested on charges of making anti-government speeches at rallies and inciting violence. He provided no further details.
Pashteen, 27, heads the Pashtun Protection Movement, which has emerged as a force among the country’s Pashtun minority, drawing tens of thousands to rallies. The group contends that the military is waging a campaign of intimidation as it battles Islamist militants in the country’s rugged border region near Afghanistan. The group says the army’s heavy-handed tactics include extrajudicial killings and thousands of disappearances and detentions.
Mohsin Dawar, a lawmaker who is also a member of the group, confirmed Pashteen’s arrest. He told The Associated Press that police were taking Pashteen to Dera Ismail Khan, a town in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province bordering Afghanistan. He said Pashteen was apparently arrested on charges of attending anti-government rallies.
Pashteen’s supporters condemned his arrest on social media, while others praised the police action, saying a “traitor” had been arrested.
A prominent Pakistani rights leader Afrasiab Khattak criticized the arrest, saying it “exposes the colonial type repressive state policy against Pashtun in general,” as well as the people of the former tribal region of North Waziristan in particular.
Gulalai Ismail, a Pakistani human rights activist who recently fled the country to avoid harassment by security agencies, also denounced the arrest in a tweet. “We, Pashtuns, will remain non-violent in the face of the arrest of our movement’s leader,” she said, adding that peaceful resistance is “the major pillar” of the movement.
the military has used indiscriminate force as it hunts for Taliban hideouts in the tribal regions where the Pashtun dominate, imposing collective punishments like bulldozing the homes of family members of suspected militants and punishing entire villages for extremist attacks.
The catalyst for the group’s creation was the police killing in 2018 of Naqueebullah Mehsud, a 27-year-old ethnic Pashtun and aspiring model who was shot dead in the southern port city of Karachi. Many displaced Pashtuns have relocated there after being displaced by the military operations in the tribal regions.


Banned Thai opposition party accuses junta of helping in 1MDB cover-up

Updated 11 min 9 sec ago

Banned Thai opposition party accuses junta of helping in 1MDB cover-up

  • Future Forward Party, the third-largest party in parliament, was dissolved on Friday by Thailand’s Constitutional Court
  • ‘If we were in government, we would investigate’

BANGKOK: A banned Thai opposition party on Sunday accused the former military junta of helping cover up Malaysia’s multi-billion-dollar 1MDB scandal, urging Thais to demand the truth ahead of a censure debate against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The Future Forward Party, the third-largest party in parliament, was dissolved on Friday by Thailand’s Constitutional Court over a loan it took from its billionaire founder.
The dissolution was decried by democracy advocates as a way to weaken opposition to the government of Prayuth, who first came to power in a 2014 military coup and led a military junta until after elections last year that his pro-army party won.
Future Forward’s spokeswoman, Pannika Wanich, told reporters at a news conference on Sunday that the junta had worked with Malaysia’s former government to arrest a whistleblower in the 1MDB case in 2015 and had allowed financial criminals to operate in Thailand, risking the country’s international ties.
“The junta government yearned for international acceptance after the coup ... and formed a dark alliance with Malaysia,” Pannika said.
“The only person who can issue these orders is Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha,” Pannika said.
Pannika cited irregularities surrounding Thailand’s arrest and the subsequent confession of Xavier Justo, the Swiss national who was arrested in Thailand in 2015 the first whistleblower in the 1MDB affair.
The government also harbored Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, allowing him to enter the country at least five times between October 2016 and May 2018, despite Low having an Interpol red notice from Singapore, she said.
Low has been charged in Malaysia and the United States over the alleged theft of $4.5 billion from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), set up by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak with the help of Low, to promote economic development.
At least six countries, including the United States, have launched money laundering, financial mismanagement and criminal probes into 1MDB dealings.
Low has denied any wrongdoing. His whereabouts are unknown.
Future Forward Party said it would have opened an investigation on corruption and money laundering related to the 1MDB case if it were in power.
“If we were in government, we would investigate. We want a government that is a responsible neighbor and acts with dignity,” Pannika said.
“Since we have been dissolved, we can’t, but the Thai public can demand the truth.”
A spokesman for the Malaysian prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.