Pashtun Tahafuz Movement’s (PTM) grand gathering in Peshawar kicked off on Sunday afternoon with the speakers demanding demanding release of missing persons as well as provision of basic human rights to Pakhtuns in Pakistan.
People, numbering in thousands, from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are participating in the gathering and intermittently chanting the slogan da sang azadi da (what kind of freedom is this), which has become the movement’s rallying cry.
The families of missing persons arrived at the gathering holding pictures of their loved ones, whose whereabouts remain unknown.
Speaking at the event, PTM leader Sanna Ejaz demanded a closure of National Logistics Cell units in Torkham, Chaman and Ghulam Khan, and the return of properties in Swat and Malakand.
“The people of tribal areas should be given the same rights as the people of Lahore and Islamabad,” she said, demanding an end to target killing of pakhtuns and the provision of basic human rights to the people of tribal areas.
Other speakers demanded that facilities such as hospitals, schools and colleges should be provided in Fata, vowing to continue their demand for rights within the ambit of the Constitution.
“Sindhis, Baloch and even the oppressed Punjabis are looking towards you today,” a speaker said in Urdu, addressing the crowd, adding that the movement’s leader Manzoor Pashteen is the last hope of the oppressed in the country.
The speakers included a mix of emotionally charged young men and women as well as elders who sang poetry.
There were unconfirmed reports of 3G and 4G internet being interrupted in the area. A Twitter account — said to be the movement’s official account — alleged that “internet connectivity was being constantly interrupted by the state”.
PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen is expected shortly to speak at the gathering.
Reports of protests led by the PTM in Islamabad first made headlines following the extrajudicial killing of Waziristan native Naqeebullah Mehsud — a shopkeeper and aspiring model — in Karachi in January.
Leaders of PTM — which is an organisation working for the rights of those affected by war on terror in Tribal Areas especially those from South Waziristan — claim that in the past decade, 32,000 Pashtuns have gone missing from Fata. They insist that their struggle is to ensure implementation of the Constitution under which the law-enforcement agencies are supposed to provide details of the people they pick up and present them before courts.