Senior PTM leader Arif Wazir dies after gun attack in Wana

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MEPs ask European Commission to take strong action of killing

ISLAMABAD: Arif Wazir, a senior leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) died in an Islamabad hospital on Saturday, a day after he was attacked by unidentified gunmen in the South Waziristan tribal district. The PTM which identifies as a Pashtun rights movement campaigns against what it alleges are military excesses against ethnic populations during anti-terrorism operations. PTM emerged in 2018, after the killing of an ethnic Pashtun man by police in the port city of Karachi. The killing led to nationwide protests.
On Friday, minutes before iftar (break of fast), indiscriminate firing from a moving car outside Wazir’s home in Wana left the Pashtun leader critically wounded according to PTM leader Abdullah Nangyal. Following this, he was taken to Islamabad for treatment. But succumb to injuries and died on Saturday morning.

Arif Wazir

Soon after his killing, rights group Amnesty International said in a statement that Pakistani authorities must carry out an independent and effective investigation into the attack on Wazir. Mohsin Dawar, a member of Pakistan’s national assembly and a PTM founding leader said that it was the responsibility of the state to ensure the protection of its citizens. “It’s a failure of the state for not protecting its citizens which is not acceptable,” he said. 
The deceased, who had been released from prison on bail a month ago after being charged with delivering an “anti-Pakistan” speech in April, was also the first cousin of sitting MNA Ali Wazir from South Waziristan. Abdullah Nangyal said the lawmaker had lost over a dozen family members in recent years to armed assaults by militants. 

Taking to Twitter shortly after Wazir’s death, MNA Mohsin Dawar, who represents North Waziristan in parliament, blamed the state for the attack. He said the attack was carried out by “good” terrorists and added that his party’s “struggle against their masters will continue”.

Pakistan says members of the PTM are funded by foreign states and agencies. The PTM denies any external links. Many PTM supporters are ethnic Pashtuns who hail originally from areas bordering Afghanistan, which used to be the center point of a long insurgency by Taliban and subsequent operations by the Pakistan army.

KARACHI: Activists of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) hold a protest against the killing of Sardar Arif Wazir outside Press Club in Karachi on Tuesday.

According to details received later, Arif Wazir was strolling outside his residence in Ghwa Khwa near Wana on Friday when armed persons opened fire from a moving vehicle. According to an official, Wazir received life-threatening injuries. He was initially admitted to the District Headquarters Hospital, Wana, but later shifted to an undisclosed hospital in Islamabad.

In 2005, Wazir’s father and brother were among seven people shot dead by ‘unknown’ people. Wazir, a teenager then, was forced to quit his studies and become the man of the house. He has left three sons, two daughters and a widow behind. According to Independent Urdu, at least four people, including Wazir and another PTM activist, have been shot dead over the past few days. The report said there was an increase in the number of vehicles with tainted glass, often used in these attacks.

Burial

Thousands of people attended the funeral of Arif Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), on Sunday. Mr Wazir suffered injuries in an attempt on his life in South Waziristan tribal district two days ago and died during treatment in Islamabad on Saturday.

He was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard in Ghwa Khwa, near Wana, the main city in South Waziristan. Manzoor Pashteen, the PTM chief, MNAs Mohisn Dawar and Ali Wazir, Mir Kalam, an MPA from North Waziristan, and a number of other prominent PTM leaders attended the Namaz-i-Janaza.

A large contingent of law enforcement personnel guarded government buildings in Wana and sealed off important roads.

PTM:

PTM is a rights-based alliance that, besides calling for the de-mining of the former tribal areas and greater freedom of movement in the latter, has insisted on an end to the practices of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful detentions, and for their practitioners to be held to account within a truth and reconciliation framework.

The party has been critical of the state’s policies in the country’s tribal belt, where a massive operation against terrorists was conducted in recent times leading to alleged enforced disappearances.

PTM’s leaders, in particular its elected members to the National Assembly, have come under fire for pursuing the release of individuals detained by authorities without due process. The army alleges the party of running an anti-national agenda and for playing into the hands of the state’s enemies.

In May last year, PTM’s MNAs — Dawar and Wazir — were arrested by police after a protest gathering in Kharqamar for using violence and clashing with army personnel. The party while rejecting these claims, insisted that theirs is a peaceful struggle for the rights of people from the country’s tribal belt.

The party while rejecting all allegations has insisted that theirs is a peaceful struggle for the rights of people from the country’s tribal belt. Last year, MNAs Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir were arrested by police after a protest gathering in Kharqamar for allegedly using violence and clashing with army personnel.

This year in January, PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen was arrested from Peshawar’s Shaheen Town for making a speech in Dera Ismail Khan during which he allegedly said that the 1973 Constitution violated basic human rights. The FIR said Pashteen also made derogatory remarks about the state.

A day later, Dawar was arrested briefly from outside the Islamabad press club alongside several other individuals while protesting Pashteen’s detention. He was later released on bail on January 25.

European Commission

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) have called on European Commission to take “strong action” against Pakistan for brutal killings of Pashtun leader Arif Wazir and journalist Sajid Hussain.
In a letter to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen on Tuesday, four MEPs– Helmut Geuking, Peter Lundgren, Ryszard Czarnecki,  Bogdan Rzonca– accused Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, of silencing human rights defenders and journalists.
Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), was attacked by unidentified assailants outside his home in Wana, South Waziristan on May 1. Hussain, who had been living in exile in Sweden, was found dead in a river in Stockholm after disappearing few weeks ago.
“As Members of the European Parliament, we call on the European Commission to take strong action against Pakistan for the brutal murders of these two human rights defenders. Both murders were carried out by the Pakistani Intelligence,” read the letter.
The MEPs have also asked the commission to support international human rights advocates, in calling for an independent and effective investigation into the ongoing attacks on Baluch activists and into enforced disappearances.
“It is not coincidental that these murders are taking place whilst the international community is distracted with the Coronavirus pandemic. Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI, has continued to silence human rights defenders and journalists both inside Pakistan and externally during this time,” the letter read
“Discrimination through the denial of access to Covid-19 testing and medical supplies has also been inflicted on the Baluch people during this period,” it added.