Karachi, Pakistan – Tens of thousands of people gathered in Karachi on May 13 to protest against Pakistan military’s abuses. Though the rally was planned on May 12 which coincides with the indiscriminate killings of Pashtuns in Karachi on May 12, 2007, however, the authorities didn’t allow the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) to hold their rally on the mentioned date.
The authorities cited that holding a rally on May 12 might stoke ethnic tensions, however, the rally participants proved it wrong when people from all ethnic backgrounds including Baloch and Sandhis participated in the rally.
People included children and women who attended the rally were holding posters and pictures of their loved ones who are either abducted by the state agencies or missing. They demanded the immediate release of their family members.
Though PTM showed massive people power in different cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Quetta and in Lahore however, this was their first rally that the movement held in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, one of Pakistan’s largest cities.
Despite a countrywide crackdown on the PTM workers and organizers thousands of people defied all restrictions and threats of the government to participate in the rally. Many of PTM leaders were detained including its leader Manzoor Pashteen who was prevented to board a flight to Karachi for a couple of times.
However, Pashteen managed to travel 1,400km distance by car. According to reports he defied constant harassment including searches, delays, and was stopped by the military to wait for hours while traveling to Karachi but the protestors waited for more than six hours to see and hear Manzoor Pashteen .
Pashteen received a raucous welcome from the protestors while arriving at the protest. Addressing the mammoth crowd, Pashteen appeared very confident, calm and composed.
“This country has a single constitution; the state must run according to the constitution. You cannot just rule as you please,” said Pashteen .
He stressed upon his demand that a truth and reconciliation commission should be formed to investigate the rights abuses allegedly committed by the Pakistani state, rejecting the role of Jirga (Tribal Council) that was proposed by the Pakistani state.
He furthered that “Jirgas are held between enemies … between the state and its citizens, there is only the constitution. So, establish a truth and reconciliation commission, and we will appear before it. We are earnest in our desire to solve these problems, whether you are or not.”
PTM leader warned that if the movement abducted members are not released by the government ‘we will call countrywide protests’.
The massive crowd cheered and shouted “Da Sanga Azaadi da?” “What kind of freedom is this?” throughout the rally.