The continued discrimination against Pashtun activists across the country should be a source of concern to the average Pakistani. From mainstream political parties to the media maintaining silence over the protest movement launched by Pashtun activists to the police in Balochistan registering criminal cases against Pashtun activists and the government in Punjab asking people to watch out for ‘individuals who look like Pashtuns.’
According to the Human Rights Watch, Pashtuns in the FATA area are still governed by colonial era regulations, “that allow “collective punishment” for entire communities, including property destruction, and largely denies people access to courts to enforce their rights.” Further in 2016, when about a million displaced residents returned home following military operations against the Taliban, they had to produce special identification cards not required of other Pakistanis.
HRW cautioned “Pakistani officials should recognize the country’s diversity as a strength and not a weakness. All persons are equal before the law. Critically, the government needs to end its longstanding discriminatory laws and practices against Pashtuns and act to end hostile attitudes toward them. This process could start by dropping the criminal cases against Manzoor Pashteen and other protest leaders wrongfully charged, fully investigating and fairly prosecuting those responsible for Naqeebullah Mehsud’s death, and letting Pashtun voices be heard.”
The Pakistani state has consistently used and abused colonial era regulations against any dissident political leaders. Leaders like Bengali leader Fazle Huq and Pashtun leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan were booked under the same sections as the young Pashtun activists have been today.
According to the Daily Times the cases registered against the Pashtun protestors “accuse the PTM leaders, including 24-year-old Manzoor Pashteen, of violating sections 153 (provoking with the intent to cause riot) and 153a (causing enmity among groups). When contacted, Zhob SHO said the cases were registered on directives from police higher ups. Asked what prompted the use of the two sections of the penal code, he said, “agencies and the GHQ were targeted in the speeches.”