PTM launches protests across Pakistan after acquittal of key suspect in Naqeebullah Mehsud’s murder

23-year-old Naqbeeullah Mehsud. a Pashtun factory worker and aspiring model in Karachi, and three others were extrajudicially killed on January 13 , 2018. His murder saw a huge wave of protests led by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement

January 28, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
PTM protest Pakistan
(Photo: via Noor Ullah Tareen/Twitter)

On Thursday, January 26, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) organized several demonstrations across Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province to protest the acquittal of Rao Anwar, the main suspect in the police murder of a Pashtun youth, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in 2018.

On January 23, an anti-terrorism court in Karachi acquitted the former superintendent of police, along with 17 others.

23-year-old Naqbeeullah Mehsud was a Pashtun factory worker and aspiring model in Karachi. He and three others were extrajudicially killed on January 13 , 2018. Police official Rao Anwar was the main suspect. At the time, the police had dubbed Mehsud’s death as an “encounter” by Pakistan’s security forces, alleging that he had links to terrorist groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

In its ruling on Monday, the court extended the benefit of doubt to the accused and acquitted him, saying that the prosecution had failed to submit sufficient evidence against Anwar, Dawn reported.  Mehsud’s family has reportedly decided to challenge the decision in a higher court.

Announcing country-wide protests against the decision, PTM leader Manzoor Pashteen tweeted, “The acquittal of Rao Anwar and his accomplices, the notorious murderer of hundreds of people including martyr Naqeebullah, is a cruel decision.”

At a protest in Swat, KP, on Thursday, people held placards and banners inscribed with slogans against the release of Rao Anwar and the 17 other suspects. 

Thursday’s protests came a day after the PTM organized a massive rally in Karachi, Sindh, on January 25 against the oppression of Pashtuns. Protesters demanded the release of incarcerated PTM leader Ali Wazir and better treatment of Pashtuns in Pakistan. They also asked the Sindh government to stop the arrest and deportation of Afghans.

PTM was formed by Pashteen and seven others in 2014 to advocate for the rights of Pakistan’s Pashtun minority and highlight the plight of the community caught between the state and militant forces in the border provinces of what used to be the FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) region. The movement shot to prominence in 2018 as it led the protests against the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud.

Since its inception, the  movement has demanded an end to the war crimes, extrajudicial killings, and torture faced by innocent Pashtuns such as Mehsud, who frequently become subjects of suspicion and arrests by the state’s security forces.