Pakistan unrest northwest PTM politics February 25 2020 - 5:15 PM

Pakistan releases Pashtun rights activist from jail Peshawar, Pakistan, Feb 25, 2020 (AFP) - A leading Pakistani ethnic minority rights activist known for criticising the country's powerful armed forces was released from jail Tuesday, weeks after a court granted him bail. Manzoor Pashteen has rattled the country's generals with his calls to end abuses against the Pashtun community, largely based in tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan. His Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), founded in 2018, is notable for its direct verbal attacks on a military establishment which plays a dominant role in national politics. Last month he was taken into custody on charges of sedition, hate speech, incitement against the state and criminal conspiracy. After walking free Pashteen told AFP his arrest was "not going to stop me from raising my voice for Pashtun rights". Footage posted on social media showed Pashteen standing through the sunroof of a car and addressing hundreds of young supporters as they chanted and showered him with rose petals. Pakistan's Pashtun heartlands were once plagued by violence and militancy, though army operations have dramatically improved security both there and across the country in recent years. But the PTM claim these operations came at a heavy price, with soldiers using enforced disappearances and targeted killings against civilians. Authorities have repeatedly denied the claims and cracked down on the rights group. Strict media blackouts have kept news and images of peaceful PTM rallies off TV screens and out of newspapers nationwide. A New York Times opinion piece written by Pashteen last year was also censored in Pakistan. la-zz/ds/gle

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