Arif Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement in Pakistan, died in a hospital in Islamabad on May, 2 Saturday. He had been attacked by unidentified gunmen the previous day. Wazir was attacked in the town of Wana in the South Waziristan agency of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. He is the cousin of Ali Wazir, also a leader of the PTM and a member of the National Assembly.
Wazir’s family and comrades have targeted in the past too. In June 2018, he survived a similar attack in Wanna Bazar. In 2007, seven of his family members, including his father and brother, were assassinated.
PTM leader Mohsin Dawar blamed state-sponsored militants for the assault, stressing that the Pashtun community will continue fighting for their rights. “The masters of the attackers should know that bullets, injuries and prisons can’t weaken our resolve. You will be defeated,” Dawar, who is also an member of National Assembly, said.
The Pashtun Tahafuz Movement emerged to defend the Pashtun community in Pakistan, which has been the target of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations. A key demand of the movement was the removal of mines from the areas in which they live and greater autonomy for the northwestern regions of the country. The movement has also sought a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate human rights abuses. It led a massive march to Islamabad in support of these demands in 2017. Tens of thousands took part in this march. Ali Wazir, Mohsir Dawar and Manzoor Pashteen are among the key leaders of the movement.
The Pakistani establishment has responded harshly to the movement. In March, a case was filed against Ali Wazir for allegedly making anti-state remarks. Before that, PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen, was arrested by the police in Peshawar’s Shaheen Town on January 26 on charges of sedition. Last year, Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were arrested in connection with an attack on an army outpost. The arrests had led to protests around the world calling for the release of the leaders.
As many as 30,000 people from the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have been subjected to enforced disappearances in the past ten years, as per the local estimates.