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Pakistan's Ethnic Pashtuns Rally For Rights


Manzur Pashteen delivers a speech to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in Lahore on April 22.

Thousands of people have rallied in the Pakistani eastern city of Lahore to call for an end to what they say are human rights violations by authorities in the country's tribal regions.

The April 22 rally was organized by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), or Pashtun Protection Movement, a group started mainly by young ethnic Pashtun activists denouncing perceived high-handedness by security forces.

Manzoor Pashteen, the founder leader of the PTM, delivered an address criticizing the country's military and its actions in Pashtun-dominated regions of Pakistan.

"I urge professional soldiers not to follow the command of the generals and brigadiers. Refuse to obey their orders because they [generals] can get you killed like they did with people of Waziristan and other parts of the country," Pashteen said.

His group has protested since the January killing of 27-year old Naqeebullah Mehsud during what Pakistani police described as a raid on a "terrorist hideout" in the port city of Karachi.

Pakistani police claimed Mehsud was a member of the Pakistani Taliban, which his relatives in his native South Waziristan region deny.

The PTM has been calling for the removal of military checkpoints in tribal areas and an end to "enforced disappearances" in which suspects are detained by security forces without due process.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar on April 8, as many as 60,000 people took part in a demonstration to demand the protection of the rights of Pashtuns.

Pakistan's government rejects allegations that security forces or its intelligence service are responsible for enforced disappearances.

Authorities say military checkpoints are necessary in the tribal areas in order to combat Islamic extremist militants, including Pakistani and Afghan Taliban fighters.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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