Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leaders and MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir on Monday condemned the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen and said that instead of addressing the group's grievances, the state had resorted to arresting its leader.
Dawar was addressing a press conference in Islamabad, hours after Pashteen was arrested from Peshawar's Shaheen Town. He was joined by Wazir, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) Senator Usman Kakar, politician Afrasiab Khattak and PPP's Farhatullah Babar.
Dawar said that he had called the police to ask on what grounds Pashteen had been arrested but they did not give any reasons and refused to cooperate.
Terming the arrest as "abduction", Dawar said: "We think that Manzoor Pashteen has been arrested for the speech he delivered in Bannu in which he said he will gather all Pashtun leaders." He urged PTM workers to stay "peaceful like always" and announced that the group will hold protests across the country as well as abroad on Tuesday.
"FIRs will not frighten us. Resistance will balloon now," Dawar declared.
Wazir recalled that Defence Minister Pervez Khattak had recently offered to hold dialogue with the rights group in order to address their issues and yet Pashteen had been arrested.
"It means the government and state are not on the same page," Wazir said.
PPP leader Babar said that his party had condemned Pashteen's arrest and demanded the "immediate release" of the PTM chief as well as his supporters, who had been taken into custody.
"It is strange that the defence minister had offered dialogue to PTM but [now] the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen is an eye-opener," Babar said.
"Political detentions will deteriorate internal security," the PPP leader warned.
Senator Kakar also condemned Pashteen's arrest and said: "Manzoor Pashteen's narrative and popularity have given sleepless nights to the government and those at the helms of affairs."
Khattak termed Pashteen's arrest as a "dangerous" move, saying, "the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen has turned him into a reality."
"Why are you not ready to book Musharraf who sabotaged the Constitution?" the politician demanded and called upon rights groups to take notice of Pashteen's "illegal arrest".
"How will you sell atrocities in occupied-Kashmir when you are treating your own people in the same manner?" Khattak added.
PTM chief Pashteen was sent to Peshawar's central jail on a 14-day day judicial remand by a magistrate after he was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning.
According to police, a case was registered against the PTM chief at the City police station in DI Khan on Jan 18 under sections 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups), 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 124 (sedition), and 123-A (condemning the creation of the country and advocating the abolishment of its sovereignty) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
According to the first information report (FIR), a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Pashteen and other PTM leaders had attended a gathering on January 18 in DI Khan where the PTM chief had allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights.
The FIR added that Pashteen also made derogatory comments about the state.
Police had also arrested nine other PTM workers who were identified as Muhammad Salam, Abdul Hameed, Idrees, Bilal, Mohib, Sajjadul Hassan, Aimal, Farooq and Muhammad Salman under the tenancy act.
PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.
The party has been critical of the state's policies in the country's tribal belt, where a massive operation against terrorists was conducted in recent times leading to large-scale displacement and enforced disappearances.
PTM's leaders, in particular its elected members to the National Assembly, have come under fire for pursuing the release of individuals detained by authorities without due process. The army alleges the party of running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state's enemies.
Last year, two of PTM's MNAs — Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir — were arrested by police after a protest gathering in Kharqamar for allegedly using violence and clashing with army personnel. The party while rejecting these allegations, insisted that theirs is a peaceful struggle for the rights of people from the country's tribal belt.