March 7, 2018

How are Pashtuns standing up for their rights in Pakistan?

Protesters issue an urgent call for political and social reform to improve the lives of those within marginalised tribal communities

We'll look at how Pashtun activists are pushing to bring an end to state discrimination in Pakistan. Demonstrators have given the Pakistani government until March 10 to meet a list of demands ending prejudice against the five-million strong Pashtun community.

The protests were sparked by the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, an entrepreneur and aspiring model, during a police firefight in Karachi on January 13. Police say that Naqeebullah had links to ISIL, allegations rejected by his friends and family and later found by police investigators to be false.

Within days, Pashtun activists had organised under the banner #PashtunLongMarch. In early February demonstrators held a days-long sit-in in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, demanding that police superintendent Rao Anwar be brought to justice for Mehsud's death. Anwar remains at large.

The protesters are also seeking wholesale changes to the way that Pashtuns in Pakistan are treated, particularly in the country’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) where the vast majority of Pashtuns live. They have urged that Pakistan security forces end forced detention and harassment of Pashtun civilians under the pretext of searching for Taliban fighters, and want the military to clear landmines from the region. About two million Pashtuns have been displaced from their homes amid a series of Pakistani military operations against the Taliban since 2001.

We'll examine what prompted Pashtuns to organise under the #PashtunLongMarch banner, the new ways in which they are demanding their rights be respected, and the prospects for lasting change in the FATA region.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Nizamuddin Khan @salarzai_
Founding Member, FATA Youth Jirga

Hameedullah Jan Afridi
Founder, FATA Grand Alliance

Shahida Shah @sshahkk
Co-Founder, KHOR

Read more:
Pakistan's Pashtuns march for justice - Al Jazeera
In Pakistan, long-suffering Pashtuns find their voice - New York Times

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