PESHAWAR: Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen was arrested in the early hours of Monday morning over charges of sedition and condemnation of state.

Mr Pashteen was produced before Magistrate Saleemur Rehman amid strict security at the judicial complex. The magistrate, who heard a case registered against Mr Pashteen in Dera Ismail Khan, sent him to the Peshawar central prison on judicial remand for 14 days.

His lawyers, Shahab Khattak and Farhad Afridi, have filed a transit bail petition, seeking his release on bail so that the PTM leader could appear before the relevant court in D.I. Khan.

Manzoor Pashteen and four PTM supporters — Hameed Wazir, Salam Man­dokhel, Bilal Mehsud and Muhammad Idress — were taken into custody from a house in the Shaheen Town area. The others were charged under KP Restric­tion of Rented Buildings (security) Act for not possessing the relevant tenant’s information form. However, the magistrate absolved them of the charges.

According to the FIR — registered at D.I. Khan city police station on Jan 21 — while addressing a programme, Mr Pashteen had stated he did not accept the Consti­tution as it was against fundamental rights.

It was stated in the FIR that through his speech Mr Pashteen tried to create hatred among different nationalities of Pakistan and also used derogatory language against the state.

The FIR was registered under Section 123A (condemnation of creation of Pakistan), 124-A (sedition), 120-A (criminal conspiracy), 153-A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the PPC and Section 16 of MPO.

Meanwhile, a number of politicians and civil rights activists held a news conference at the National Press Club in Islamabad to “condemn” what they called kidnapping of Mr Pashteen. They said the PTM chief had been picked up for speaking for the rights of the Pashtuns.

Those who addressed the news conference included Ali Wazir, Mohsin Dawar, Afrasiab Khattak, Farhat­ullah Babar, Usman Kakar, Ayaz Wazir, Tahira Abdullah and Asmat Shahjehan.

Reacting to the Afghan president’s remarks over Pashteen’s arrest, the Foreign Office said in a statement: “We have noted with serious concern the recent tweets by President Ashraf Ghani, which are a clear interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs and hence, unwarranted. We believe that such statements are not helpful to the promotion of good neighborly relations between the two countries.”

The FO said Pakistan wished to maintain close and cordial relations with Afghanistan based on the principles of non-intervention and non-interference and urged the Afghan side to work together for the common objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2020