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Manzoor Pashteen: Our protest is non-violent and constitutional

Manzoor Pashteen: Our protest is non-violent and constitutional
From Al Jazeera - April 9, 2018

Members of the Pashtun community in Pakistan have staged a series of protests against extrajudicial arrests and killings of members of the ethnic minority by security forces.

The killing of an aspiring model from the community - whichmakes up about 15 percent of Pakistan's 207 million population -in January sparked the countrywide protests.

"It's a miracle that our efforts are still going on," Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the movement, told Al Jazeera.

On Sunday, he led another Pashtun Long Marchin Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province,demandingprotection and rights.

In a country where few speak against the powerful army and spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), this young man has been outspoken against atrocities committed by the state agencies.

Al Jazeera spoke to Pashteen, who has been catapulted into national prominence with the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Pashtun Protection Movement).

Al Jazeera: What sparked the Pashtun protests?

Manzoor Pashteen: Actually, our marches and protests this year are continuity of our efforts. In 2004, when the [military] operations in the tribal areas against militants began, masharaan (tribal elders) spoke out against the wrongdoings of the military and the Taliban. Then their heads would be found in one place and their bodies in another. People who raised their voices were being killed.

And when we started the long march last month, only 22 people were with me. But very soon, thousands joined us.

We had no idea this many people would join us. Naturally, people who are sick of the situation joined our campaign. I would call it a miracle, that despite people being killed for raising their voices, we still see a continuity of our efforts since day one.

Al Jazeera: People are asking how the Pashtun movement will benefit Pakistan. How would you respond?

Pashteen:The biggest benefit is Pakistan's stability. If the military, police and agencies are held accountable for their actions with checks and balances, Pakistan will benefit.

The Pashtun youth have been through a lot, but what I can advise them is this: whatever they do, they should not base it on hatred

Manzoor Pashteen, Pashtun leader in Pakistan

Extrajudicial killings and missing persons is not unique to Pashtuns. If a commission is formed to solve these issues, it will also benefit others.

If the state can address the grievances of Pashtuns, who have experienced violence and injustice, and yet have protested peacefully, it will set a new precedent.

Lastly, if these injustices and mistreatment by institutions against their own people end, then the anger and resentment will also end. People will embrace Pakistan and Pakistan will embrace its people.

However, if they take a negative approach and our demands are not met, we all will be worse off.

Al Jazeera:A criminal complaint has been lodged against you. Do you know who filed it or why?

Pashteen:It's been filed by "unidentified people". A lot of people have suffered at the hands of "unidentified people". When someone would go missing or be killed, many a time, it would be carried out by "unidentified people". We found out that agencies are behind these acts, but instead of backing Pashtuns, the state shielded them.

Al Jazeera: There are also those trying to discredit you. Can you speak about that?

Pashteen:Our protests are constitutional. The people who do not want peace have no respect for the constitution, and it seems the Pakistani institutions do not want to work under the constitution.

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