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State vs Ali Wazir: The Plight of Pakistan’s Lone Voice

Mohsin Dawar (left) and Ali Wazir, PTM member of parliament from North Waziristan tribal district. (AFP File)

Mohsin Dawar (left) and Ali Wazir, PTM member of parliament from North Waziristan tribal district. (AFP File)

Ali Wazir, a member of the National Assembly and a leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, is under torture and humiliation in Pakistan for his alleged involvement in anti-state activities on the behest of Afghanistan and Indian secret services.

The ring tone of my mobile rang at around 4am. My contact in Karachi was on the phone. “Doctor sahib it’s bad,” he said in a shaky voice. “What is bad?” I asked. The following is what he then revealed.

During the early hours of morning on February 10, a rangers’ para-military jeep was speeding towards the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) in Malir in Karachi. The driver was a rangers’ officer of Major rank. On the back seat Ali Wazir, a member of the National Assembly and a senior leader of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), was all curled up with stabbing pain in his abdomen. On either side of Wazir, sat an armed rangers’ guard.

For the past one week, Wazir had been continuously brought to the rangers’ headquarters every day for ‘interrogation’. However, in actuality the ranger officer was forcing Wazir to sign a confessional statement regarding his alleged involvement in anti-state activities on the behest of Afghanistan and Indian secret services.

Wazir’s refusal to sign the confessional statement drafted by the Inter-Services-Intelligence agency, the ISI, has cost him dearly. He has been subjected to brutal torture and humiliation at the Rangers Headquarters every single day until February 10 when finally, the torture took its toll and Wazir collapsed with agonizing pain in his kidneys.

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Ali Wazir was arrested in Peshawar on December 16, 2020 after he attended the Army Public School (APS) massacre memorial meeting held in remembrance of the young pupils, who were targeted during a terrorist attack allegedly conducted by Ehsan Ulla Ehsan’s terrorist outfit six years ago and in which 150 pupil and teachers lost their lives.

Wazir was then flown to the Karachi jail where he has been languishing since. At the time of his arrest, the Peshawar City Police Officer Muhammed Ali Gandapur said that Wazir has been arrested on the request of the Sindh police which had filed a case against Ali Wazir at Sohrab Goth police station in Karachi.

Meanwhile, a reference has been sent by the speaker of the national Assembly to the Election Commission of Pakistan seeking disqualification of Ali Wazir as a member of Parliament. The reference was received at the commission on Thursday night. Now the file rests on the table of Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja. The grounds for disqualification have not been shared with the press or public. In the past, Ali Wazir has been accused of hatching conspiracy against the state.

In a nutshell, the state of Pakistan is hell bent on ‘sorting out’ Wazir and seems willing to go to any length to finish off Wazir’s political significance and even life. Talking of Wazir’s political significance, it would be relevant to delve very briefly and examine what Wazir’s politics has meant for his people and for the state of Pakistan.

Ali Wazir hails from the Pashtun tribe of Ahmedzai Wazir. His father was the leader of this tribe. Ali Wazir’s father was against the Taliban and this brought the family into direct conflict not only with the Taliban but with the Pakistani military establishment as well. The Taliban were given a free hand to target Wazir’s male family members and businesses. Between 2003 and 2020, 18 of his male family members including his father, brothers, uncles and cousins have been murdered. Luckily, Ali Wazir has so far survived numerous assassination attempts on his life.

Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, or PTM (Pashtun Protection Movement), was founded in 2014 by eight students of Gomal University in Dera Ismael Khan. Initially PTM started off with a campaign to remove hundreds of landmines laid down by the Pakistani army and which are dotted across Waziristan Agency. Landmines are a major cause for maiming and killing hundreds of innocent children and women. PTM was led by Manzoor Pashteen. Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were confidants who became popular as PTM grew attention and large crowds began to attend their public meetings.

Soon the movement began to demand a truth and reconciliation commission to address the grievances of the people of Waziristan. But in actuality PTM shot to fame in January 2018 when PTM raised its voice for a young Pashtun by the name of Naqeeb Ulla Mehsud, who was killed in Karachi and the blame was laid with the powerful and notorious police officer Rao Anwar.

On January 26, Manzoor Pashteen along with 20 friends started a long march from Dera Ismael Khan, which was joined by hundreds of thousands of Pashtuns from other Pashtun tribes. That was the day when in reality PTM became a force to be reckoned with. In 2018 Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were elected to the national assembly of Pakistan.

For the first time in the history of the country and causing much embarrassment of the military establishment, two firebrand young activists were addressing Parliament making demands for landmines to be cleared, end of military operation in Waziristan, formation of a truth and reconciliation commission, end of humiliation of Pashtuns at military checkpoints, reproduce missing persons in front of courts of law and an end enforced disappearances.

As insurgency in Baluchistan gains momentum and Sindhudesh movement rises from the ashes of sectarian and ethnic hate and violence, a unified movement gains strength. PTM has begun to issue calls for a greater alliance among the oppressed nations of Pakstan. During a massive public meeting held in Peshawar on February 7, Manzoor Pashteen openly invited the people of Baluchistan to join their struggle. Pashteen also extended his support to the protestors in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan and even Sindh. This has since rung alarm bells in the corridors of the Pakistani state.

Pakistani military establishment is applying to all sorts of persuasive measures and torture to break Ali Wazir’s resolve for justice and to get him to sign a confessional statement. As the clouds of revolt and revolution gather over the political horizon of the state of Pakistan, its establishment becomes more and more nervous and impatient.

From this point onwards the war between the oppressed nations and the State of Pakistan will only get fiercer. The recent $1.5 billion worth purchase of thirty T-129 gunship helicopters made by the Pakistan army from Turkey is a sign that Pakistani state will fight a losing battle to the end against a people burning with the desire for freedom while persistently inching towards liberating their lands, people and natural resources from the fascist shackles of the State of Pakistan.

“Doctor sahib, please raise your voice for Ali Wazir”, were his last words before my contact killed the call.

(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoK. He currently lives in exile in the UK. Views are personal.)

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