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Another Pashtun Rights Activist Arrested In Pakistan

People in Khost protest on December 19 against the arrest of Ali Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement leader.
People in Khost protest on December 19 against the arrest of Ali Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement leader.

Pakistani police have arrested another member of a civil rights movement campaigning for the country's ethnic Pashtun minority amid an apparent crackdown on the group.

A member of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) told RFE/RL that Muhammad Sher Mehsud was taken away late on December 20 when officers raided his house in the port city of Karachi.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the arrest but could not provide details about the charges against Mehsud, who was one of the organizers of an unsanctioned rally in Karachi on December 6.

The day after the gathering, police filed a case against as many as 19 PTM members, including a lawmaker and leader of the movement, Ali Wazir, who faces sedition charges over accusations he made anti-state comments during the Karachi rally.

Wazir is to remain in police custody until December 30 when he will be presented before an anti-terrorism court.

His family have said his life is in danger in custody, a claim that the police officials reject.

Police on December 18 arrested another PTM leader, Noorullah Tareen, hours after thousands of supporters of the rights’ group protested in a dozen cities and towns of Pakistan against Wazir’s arrest.

The PTM, which has campaigned since 2018 for the civil rights of Pakistan’s estimated 35 million ethnic Pashtuns, has attracted tens of thousands of people to public rallies in recent years to denounce the powerful Pakistani Army's heavy-handed tactics in its fight against the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups in the country's northwest.

International rights groups say Pakistani 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.

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