LAHORE - The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) has demanded formation of a ‘truth commission’ to investigate extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances during a rare show of power at Lahore’s historic Mochi Gate.

The event attracted a large number of people from different walks of life including students, traders and delegates from various rights groups. Some political analysts term it the biggest gathering of the rights activists seen in the country in recent times.

“We demand formation of a truth and reconciliation commission to probe the extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances in the country,” said Manzoor Pashteen, central leader of the PTM, while addressing the charged crowd.

Pashteen, whose rise came to surface when couple of months ago a sit-in was staged in Islamabad against the killing of Naqeebullah Masood by a Karachi police officer Rao Anwar in an ‘encounter’, also announced to hold protest march in the port city.

“Our movement’s next stop would be Swat and after that we will hold a rally in Karachi on May 12 [to mark the day when over 40 people were killed in the metropolis in 2007],” he announced.

Highlighting his movement’s achievement, he said the whole country had seen the result of the PTM's first demand which was the arrest of Rao Anwar. “Our demand has met and now even the court has declared Rao a terrorist.”

“Now,” he went on saying, “the PTM was demanding that the people should know the truth about missing persons.” Narrating stories of the “innocent people” who were killed in Fata during past many years, he asked who was responsible for their deaths. He quoted a recent statement of Justice (r) Javed Iqbal in support of his claim, saying the head of the missing persons commission accused former president Pervez Musharraf of handing over 4,000 Pakistanis to United States.

He condemned police and law and order agencies on “their attempts to sabotage the show.” He also criticised media for “not giving due coverage to their movement.”

Another PTM leader Ali Wazir said the movement had come to Punjab’s capital to share its concerns with the people of the province. He said PTM will continue struggle against oppression.

Amina Masood Janjua of the Defence of Human Rights Pakistan, whose husband has been missing since 2005, also addressed the meeting. She said she was waiting since long to know where her husband was.

Hina Jilani of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in her address demanded that all missing persons should be brought back.

Awami Workers Party President Fanoos Gujjar said Pashtuns were students, traders, labourers and not traitors. He questioned why the peace of Pashtuns was destroyed. He added Pashtuns living and doing work in Punjab faced atrocities at the hands of the Punjab police which must be stopped now.

Among those who addressed the gathering were Advocate Afzal Khan, father of a student martyred in the 2014 Army Public School attack, and Tahira Jalib, the daughter of revolutionary poet Habib Jalib. Tahira read out his father’s poetry on the occasion.

Earlier, after days-long controversy, authorities on Sunday allowed the PTM to hold public meeting at Mochi Gate ground in Lahore. Earlier, the district administration had rejected the request made by PTM leaders citing “security reasons.”

The police late Saturday night launched a crackdown in different parts of Lahore and arrested several members and leaders of the PTM. However, they were released by police on Sunday morning.

On the other hand, a police spokesman denied the arrests. He claimed that some PTM activists were called for negotiations over security matters related to the rally. He said the police also provided security to the rally as per the standard operating procedure.

An AFP reporter at the scene estimated about 5,000 people attended the rally - smaller than recent protests, but a significant showing considering Lahore lies far from the movement's base in northwest.

 

 

PTM demands truth and reconciliation commission