LAHORE: “Tell us how much money did you get in return for the Pakistani citizens you sold to Americans. We will raise funds on our own and pay you so that our loved ones can be brought back. We don’t even demand that you release them. Present them before courts and punish them under the law if they are found involved in any crime,” 25-year-old Manzoor Pashteen, the founding leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, said on Sunday.
He was addressing a public gathering at Lahore’s Mochi Bagh that was packed to capacity. The gathering went ahead as planned despite attempts like detention of PTM leaders arrested on Saturday and harassment of workers convoys on their way to Lahore from other cities.
Earlier in his speech, Pashteen said that a high official had come to him and other PTM leaders for negotiations three weeks ago and asked them to withdraw the demand for recovery of those forcibly disappeared. “When we asked him why can’t the missing people be released, he dodged the question. A judge later told the nation that most of them had been sold to Americans.”
Pashteen began his speech by stating that because of the mainstream media’s blackout of the movement, it was the Pashtun community’s desire [to hold the jalsa] to tell their stories of injustices to the residents of Lahore.
“Our movement started with Rao Anwar’s arrest in the wake of Naqeebullah Mehsud’s killing. Anwar and his accomplices wanted the nation to believe that Naqeebullah was a terrorist and he was a hero. But the people’s power proved that it is the other way around,” he said, adding that the entire country saw the result of the PTM’s protest against Anwar.
Speaking about extrajudicial killing, he said under the Constitution of Pakistan, it was mandatory for security officials to produce a detainee before the courts within 24 hours detention, adding that the Constitution was clear that whoever abroagated it was guilty of treason. “You are traitors since you have violated the Constitution,” he said, addressing the authorities concerned.
Further, He told stories of Pashtuns from tribal areas who he said had been victims of atrocities meted out by security personnel. He narrated the story of two children from North Waziristan whose father had wanted them to become doctors. He identified the children as Wajah and Wajeeha and said that their house came under attack by military’s shelling. The two children died as a result. The next day, he said, the newspapers reported that terorrists were killed in military’s bombardment. The crowd chanted slogans of ‘shame’ in response.
“Anyone who wants to verify our claims about violence against the innocent Pashtun citizens can go to the villages and ask if it is a lie.”You are welcome to investigate our claims. We wil tell you names of the villages and the dates when these atrocities took place.”
He also told stories of youngsters from FATA who were allegedly arrested by security forces despite having no links with militants. “Should we side with the oppressor or with the oppressed”, he asked, adding that it was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who taught us to side with the oppressed.
“When the Pashtun citizens speak of peace, they are shot,” he said, adding that traditional jirga were disbanded and their elders were killed. He said ‘fake’ mashairs were installed in their place.
Referring to the flooding of the jalsa venue earlier in the day with sewage water, Pashteen said, “The dirt you spread was cleaned by our youngsters. This is the difference between you and us. We have been cleaning the filth you have been spreading.”
Explaining the movement’s criticism of the military, he said, “we are only against those higher-ups in the military whose flawed decisions have brought us where we are today. The military dictators who violated the constitution are real traitors and they should be tried for their criminal acts.”
Pashteen announced that the PTM would hold a public meeting in Karachi on May 12. Before that, it would hold a gathering in Swat on April 29.
Before concluding his speech, he extended solidarity with students and an academic of Punjab Univeristy who had been threatened with dire consequences for their support for the movement. He thanked the leadership of the Awami Workers Party, Pashtun community and the residnets of Lahore for attending the rally.
Another PTM leader Ali Wazir, who lost several of his family members in military operations and could not attend their funerals because he was incarcerated under colonial-era FCR, said the youngsters born and raised in the shadows of war were leading the movement. He said the PTM stood with the peasant households in Okara who were being victimised by the authorities for demanding rights to the land their families had been tilling for generations.
Lawyer Hina Jillani also spoke at the jalsa. She said that safe return of those forcibly disapeared would not be enough. “We want to know who picks up our sons and daughters and makes them disappeared.”
Advocate Fazal, whose son died in the Army Public School (APS) attack in December 2014, lamented that no judicial commission had been formed to investigate the massacre. He said the APS was a consequence of flawed polcies of seucrity establishment. “I was in touch with my son during the attack. He was alive 20 minutes into the attack and could have been saved if there had been timely action.”