The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) delegation visited the protest camp of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) in Quetta, on Saturday and expressed solidarity with the missing persons’ families. Members of the National Democratic Party also accompanied the delegation.
The delegation said that the Mohsin Dawar’s visit Balochistan aimed at empathizing with the “oppressed nation”, and to maintain brotherhood and unity among the Baloch and the Pashtun.
Mr Dawar is a member of the Pakistan National Assembly and a leader of the PTM, a social movement advocating for Pashtun human rights and withdrawal of Pakistani army from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The delegation further said that the Pashtun and the Baloch suffer from similar injustices – enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are commonplace in their respective regions.
They said that the authorities stopped Dawar on the Quetta Airport, rather than beforehand at the Islamabad Airport, to convey a message to the Pashtun and the Baloch. But the voices of the ‘oppressed’ cannot be subdued, they added.
Mama Qadeer Baloch, the Vice-Chairman of the VBMP, said that ‘enemy’ has strived to plant disunity among the Pashtun and the Baloch, but they have failed miserably. He said that the “oppressed nations” must unite and raise voice against injustices. Barring the PTM leaders from Balochistan will not humble our determination; we will make sure that our protests find global ears, he said.
Mohsin Dawar and several other members of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement landed in Quetta on Friday to meet and express solidarity with various groups, including Justise4Bramsh, Chaman Victims and Hayat Baloch’s parents. Dawar was stopped at the airport and informed that Dawar and another PTM leader Ali Wazir have been banned from entering Balochistan. Dawar confirmed the news via a tweet that read: “I have just landed in Quetta and I have been stopped from leaving the airport by security agencies. I have been told that my entry to Balochistan has been barred again for 90 days. The state thinks it can break our resolve with such petty tactics. They can’t. #DaSangaAzadiDa”
Dawar also posted the alleged restriction order from the Government of Balochistan that barred their entry into Balochistan. The notice, dated 29th July, said that Dawar and Wazir are banned from entering any district of Balochistan for the next 90 days, allegedly with “immediate effect in the best interest of public peace and security.”
Dawar slammed the authorities, saying that they are “threatened by the fact that I was speaking for the oppressed & as a Pashtun was reaching out to the Baloch.” He said that the “divide and rule” strategy is still valid in Pakistan as it was in pre-1947 days.
Mama Qadeer Baloch said that he had been informed that Dawar would visit the VBMP camp after landing in Quetta, but they were later notified that Dawar has been detained on the airport. He said this is the policy of the federal and provincial government that the advocators of the missing persons are confronting restrictions. Mama Qadeer was also barred in the past from travelling outside Pakistan.
Balochistan government has provided a contrary account of the events. Liaquat Shahwani, the spokesperson for the BAP-led Balochistan government, said that Dawar was moved to a secure place to ensure his safety. He said that the district administration had decided to move Dawar after an explosion in Quetta that reportedly left four people injured. “Mohsin Dawar is our guest and his security is our responsibility,” he said. Shahwani advised the public to not pay heed to “baseless propaganda.”
Some argue that Shahwani’s statement doesn’t add up to the overall picture. The ‘restriction notice’ was issued more than a month ago, in July, and barred Dawar and Wazir from entering Balochistan. According to PTM activists, Yesterday’s explosion was an isolated incident that was allegedly used a pretext to ‘illegally detain’ Dawar and his fellow lawmaker.
The PTM leaders have been barred from travelling within Pakistan and abroad in the past. In November 2018, Dawar and Wazir were offloaded from a flight bound from Peshawar to Dubai. They were told that they cannot leave Pakistan, as their names were on the Exit Control List. A month later in December, their names were reportedly scraped from the no-fly list under by the interior ministry. However, Dawar and Wazir were once again stopped from boarding a Kabul-bound flight in March this year and told, once again, that their names were on the ECL. Firdous Ashiq Awan, the then special assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on information and broadcasting, said that both lawmakers’ names were on the no-fly list because they “did not ask for permission to go to Afghanistan.”
Manzoor Pashteen, the founder and leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, was also banned entry into Sindh and Balochistan. He was also labelled as a traitor and a foreign agent working for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of India and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) of Afghanistan. Pashteen was arrested in January this year and released after temporary detention. Arif Wazir, a leading figure of the PTM, was attacked in South Waziristan by unknown assailants and died later in a hospital in Islamabad. Dawar alleged that ‘state-sponsored militants’ were responsible for Wazir’s assassination. Arman Loni, a professor of Pashto literature and a central figure of the movement, was allegedly extra-judicially murdered by the police in Loralai district of Balochistan.