Pashtun activist Ali Wazir granted bail by court in Pakistan

Wazir who has been behind bars since December 31, 2020 on charges of hate speech and sedition is set to be released after a court in Karachi granted him bail on the fourth and final case against him.

September 13, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Ali Wazir has been in prison since December 2020.

On Tuesday September 13, Ali Wazir, a Pashtun rights activist and Member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, was granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in Karachi. This will be Wazir’s fourth and final bail plea to be accepted after being incarcerated in December 2020 on grounds of hate speech and sedition. Along with Wazir, Muhammadullah and Alauddin, fellow PTM members were also granted bail, according to a statement by Manzoor Pashteen on Twitter.

Ali Wazir has been behind bars since his arrest on December 31, 2020, on charges of delivering incendiary speeches, inciting the public against the state, and sedition linked to a political rally that was organized by Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in Sohrab Goth, near Karachi. Four identical cases were registered against him and other party leaders Manzoor Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar at the Sohrab Goth, Shah Latif Town and Boat Basin police stations. Although Pashteen and Dawar were granted bail, Wazir’s case had been pending for nearly two years. They were charged under various sections of the Pakistani Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).

On November 30, 2021, Wazir was granted bail by the Supreme Court, but was re-arrested shortly after being released. In his bail hearing, the Apex Court had pointed out that Wazir could not be kept in jail if the co-accused had already been granted bail.

A prominent leader of the rights movement PTM, Wazir has been an advocate of Pashtun rights in Waziristan, part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

PTM grew out of a series of local protests in 2018 which were triggered by the extrajudicial execution of a 27-year-old Pashtun mill worker, Naqeebullah Mehsud, and three others by Karachi police on January 13, 2018. The police’s official account alleged that the four men were members of a terrorist organization and had been killed in a confrontation with police. The killings and their justification sparked an outcry from their families and Pashtun activists and police were forced to conduct an official investigation which affirmed the victims’ innocence.

This momentum built on decades of discrimination and oppression faced by Pashtun minorities, and contributed to the growth of the mass movement demanding an end to the war crimes, extrajudicial killings, and torture faced by Pashtun minorities. The Pashtun people have been regularly targetted by security forces since Pakistan joined the US-led War on Terror and launched major military operations in 2009 and 2014 against the Pakistani Taliban located in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan districts.

Wazir himself has also suffered this state violence and oppression, with several family  members and comrades having been targeted in the past. In 2007, seven of his family members, including his father and brother, were assassinated. His cousin Arif Wazir who died after being shot by unidentified gunmen on May 2, 2020 was the 18th member of the family to have been killed.

For more than three years, PTM has demanded investigation of human rights abuses involving the Pashtun ethnic minority residing in KP and Balochistan regions. Despite being ignored by mainstream Pakistani media, the non-violent resistance movement has attracted international media’s attention through its digital activism on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.