QUETTA: Pakistan police on Monday arrested leader of an ethnic Pashtun rights group for a gun attack on the law enforcers near the country’s border with Afghanistan, where hundreds of ethnic Pashtuns have been staging a sit-in for days to protest the government’s new visa policy, officials said on Monday.
Manzoor Pashteen has emerged as a prominent advocate of rights of ethnic Pashtuns who have allegedly faced rights abuses during Pakistan’s war against militants, mainly in its northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The 30-year-old heads the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), originally formed as the Mehsud Tahaffuz Movement in 2014, that campaigns against alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of Pashtuns and other ethnic minorities.
Pashteen’s arrest in Chaman border town of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province came after he addressed protesters who have been camped near the border to protest Pakistan’s new visa and passport regime at the border crossing following a drive to expel all undocumented foreigners.
“Manzoor Pashteen’s supporters have torn down a police check-post and opened fire on the police force in Chaman,” Chaman Deputy Commissioner Raja Athar Abbas told Arab News.
“We have lodged an FIR (police report) against Pashteen and he will be produced before the judicial magistrate tomorrow morning.”
Pashteen, after visiting the protest camp in Chaman along with hundreds of supporters, left for Turbat, where protesters have been staging another sit-in to protest alleged extra-judicial killing of a Baloch youth, Balach Baloch, according Zubair Shah Agha, central information coordinator of the PTM.
“When Pashteen left Chaman, his convoy was attacked with indiscriminate fire by the police and eight to ten bullets hit his vehicle. It also injured a passerby woman,” Agha told Arab News.
“After the attack, law enforcement agencies surrounded Pashteen’s convoy and arrested him and two other members of the PTM.”
The PTM has called for an immediate release of Pashteen and warned of a “strong reaction” if the authorities didn’t free him.
Balochistan’s Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said the provincial home ministry had banned Pashteen from entering the province and notified him thrice in the last few days, but he still visited Chaman to address the protesters.
“Manzoor Pashteen was hiding in a village near [the border of] Chaman [and] Killa Abdullah districts with his guards,” Achakzai said at a press conference, urging protester in Chaman not to let anyone use their sit-in to shape “an anti-state narrative.”