Peshawar: A 27-year-old Pakistani Pashtun minority leader, known for criticising the country's powerful military, was arrested on Monday for alleged sedition, media reports said.
Manzoor Pashteen, chief of the rights-based alliance Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), attended a gathering on January 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Dera Ismail Khan city where he had allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights, Dawn newspaper reported. He was arrested along with nine other PTM workers from Peshawar, police said.
The PTM has been critical of the Army's policies in the restive northwestern tribal areas where a massive operation against terrorists was carried out in recent years, leading to large-scale displacement and enforced disappearances, the report said.
It also calls for ending extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions besides holding the practitioners responsible.
The PTM chief has been booked for criminal intimidation, promoting enmity between different groups, criminal conspiracy, sedition and condemning the creation of the country and advocating the abolishment of its sovereignty, the report said.
The FIR said that Pashteen also made derogatory comments about the state.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called for Pashteen's "immediate and unconditional" release.
"Manzoor Pashteen has been arbitrarily detained for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. He must be released immediately and unconditionally," it said on Twitter.
Taking to Twitter, senior PTM leader and National Assembly member Mohsin Dawar said, "This is our punishment for demanding our rights in a peaceful and democratic manner. Manzoor's arrest will only strengthen our resolve. We demand the immediate release of Manzoor Pashteen".
"We will devise a strategy after consultations. We are up against those who are most troubled by demands for constitutional rights, and we will continue doing that," he said.
Soon after Pashteen's arrest, #ReleaseManzoorPashteen started trending on the micro-blogging site.
In the past, PTM's leaders, including its elected members of Parliament, have been criticised by the Army which alleges it to be running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state's enemies.
The Army had launched a military operation 'Khyber-4' under 'Radd-ul-Fasaad', which roughly translates to 'elimination of discord', to eliminate terrorists and consolidate gains of counter-terrorism operations in the country's restive northwest tribal region.