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Arrested Pashtun Leader Faces Anti-State Charges In Pakistan

Lawmaker Ali Wazir is a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in Pakistan. (file photo)
Lawmaker Ali Wazir is a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement in Pakistan. (file photo)

PESHAWAR -- Ali Wazir, a lawmaker and leader of a civil rights movement campaigning for Pakistan’s ethnic Pashtun minority, has appeared before a judge following his arrest in the northwestern city of Peshawar on anti-state charges.

Another leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), Said Alam Mehsud, told RFE/RL on December 17 that the judge granted a request by Wazir’s lawyers to let their client fly to the port city of Karachi, where he is facing charges.

It was not immediately clear when Wazir would be taken to Karachi.

Earlier, police officials in Karachi told RFE/RL that Wazir, PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen, and two other leaders of the movement, lawmaker Mohsin Dawar and Sanna Ejaz, had been charged with making anti-state speeches during an unsanctioned rally in the city on December 6.

Wazir was arrested in Peshawar on December 16 after he attended a gathering marking the sixth anniversary of the massacre of more than 150 people at a Peshawar school in December 2014.

It was not immediately clear why police had not arrested the other PTM leaders accused in the case.

Under Pakistani law, lawmakers are immune from arrest until the National Assembly speaker or the Senate chairman approves it.

Police officials in Karachi told RFE/RL that Wazir’s arrest was sanctioned by the lower house’s speaker, Asad Qaisar, who has not commented on the matter.

The PTM has campaigned since 2018 for the civil rights of Pakistan’s estimated 35 million ethnic Pashtuns, many of whom live near the border of Afghanistan where the military has conducted campaigns it says defeated the Pakistani Taliban.

The movement has attracted tens of thousands of people to public rallies in recent years to denounce the powerful Pakistani Army's heavy-handed tactics that have killed thousands of Pashtun civilians and forced millions more to abandon their homes since 2003.

International rights groups say authorities have banned peaceful rallies organized by the PTM and some of its leading members have been arbitrarily detained and prevented from traveling within the country. Some members have also faced charges of sedition and cybercrimes.