PTM's primary demand will be "removal of military from Waziristan"

10:54 PM | 28 May, 2019
PTM's primary demand will be
PESHAWAR – Days after a deadly clash between Pakistan’s security forces and a large number of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement supporters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a sitting lawmaker and prominent PTM leader has once again called for Army’s withdrawal from the restive Waziristan region.

Mohsin Dawar told BBC Urdu through a satellite phone from an undisclosed location that several government representatives are approaching them for negotiations; however, they will be in a position for talks after their fellow PTM workers will be released from custody.

“We will decide about rest of the demands when our fellows [PTM workers] meet us again, but the Army’s withdrawal is our primary demand,” he said.

Dawar represents North Waziristan in the lower house of the Pakistani Parliament and is a founding member of the PTM (also known as the Movement for the Protection of Pashtuns). He is wanted by Army for inciting an armed attack at soldiers deputed at a checkpoint in the northwestern district last week.

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On May 6, a soldier was killed and three others wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire on military personnel in the Khar Qamar area, near the site of Sunday's violence.

A follow-up attack took place on Friday, when security forces set up a "blocking position" in the area to search for the perpetrators. One soldier was wounded in that attack, the military said.

Following the attack, security forces carried out search operations to identify the perpetrators, arresting two men, the source said.

After the arrests, local residents held a protest sit-in against the detentions, claiming the men were innocent and that security forces had harassed an elderly woman during their raids.

Dawar admits leading a group of PTM activists to investigate the case and speak with local residents to ascertain whether there had been a rights violation during the raids.

But the military denies the PTM's version of events, saying the activists "assaulted" the post while Dawar and other PTM members say soldiers fired on unarmed protesters without provocation.

According to an Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement, the death toll from Sunday's confrontation at a military checkpoint in the Khar Qamar area of North Waziristan, about 210km south of provincial capital Peshawar, rose to at least eight on Monday.

Ali Wazir, another PTM leader and member of parliament, was arrested along with eight others during the confrontation.

The confrontation between both sides took place when soldiers attempted to stop Dawar, Wazir and others from meeting with a separate group of protesters who were on the other side of the Khar Qamar check post.

The military, however, said crossing the barrier at the check post constituted an aggressive act.

The very next day, a Pakistan Army soldier embraced martyrdom in exchange of fire with terrorists, who attacked Makki Garh Post in Shawal, North Waziristan, said Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

As per details, the troops had effectively repulsed the attempt of the terrorists.

Since Sunday's incident the district administration has imposed Section 144 in South Waziristan to maintain law and order, while telephone lines, mobile phone reception and internet connectivity in North Waziristan have all remained suspended.

Under the Section 144, holding public rallies, meetings have been banned, whereas use of every kind of display of weapons, aerial firing and carrying guns has also been prohibited.

Pakistan's government has also backed the military's version of events, with the Prime Minister's Information Adviser Firdous Ashiq Awan terming the group led by Dawar and Wazir "extremists".

"The way that those who would challenge the writ of the state attacked a Pakistani military check post... The cabinet has condemned this extremist act," she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

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On the other hand, the PTM supporters are holding a protest sit-in in Miranshah - the administrative headquarters of North Waziristan, once served as the global headquarters of terrorism.

Al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network and other militant organizations moved there after being routed out by the US military from neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001.

Dawar, who is in hiding, says he was "in extreme danger" and would hold the military responsible if he was attacked.

PTM claims to represent Pakistan’s roughly 35 million Pashtuns who suffered devastation at the hands of Taliban militants.

Since last year, the PTM has been demanding accountability for rights abuses allegedly committed by Pakistan's military in its years of war against the Taliban in the northwestern tribal districts. The group has faced a widespread crackdown, with frequent arrests of activists and a complete media blackout on coverage of its events.

The group has demanded the tribal districts be cleared of landmines and unexploded ordnance; that hundreds of "missing persons" who were allegedly victims of enforced disappearances be produced and formally charged in court; and an end to the alleged practice of extrajudicial killings by the military and police.