Members of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) protest against the arrest of several of their activists and leaders in Karachi Pakistan on February 10. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

Three Killed as PTM Members Attack Pakistan Army Check Post

Authorities say Pashtun ‘hardliners’ responsible for violence, but members say they were merely protesting country’s harsh treatment of ethnic group

[Islamabad] Members of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) attacked a Pakistan Army check post in the North Waziristan tribal area neighboring Afghanistan during a protest on Sunday, leaving three protesters dead, and 10 protesters and five soldiers wounded.

According to Maj.-Gen. Asif Ghafoor, director of Pakistan’s Armed Forces Media Wing, a “group led by Mohsin Javed and Ali Wazir [members of the National Assembly] attacked Boyya, the Kharqamar check post in the North Waziristan tribal district. They wanted to exert pressure for the release of a suspected terrorist facilitator recently arrested. Soldiers at the check post exercised maximum restraint in the face of provocation….  Wazir and eight other individuals were arrested, while Javed remains at large.”

Following the incident, a curfew was imposed, and land lines, Internet and mobile phone services were suspended throughout the region.

Members of the PTM reportedly said they were protesting against harsh treatment at the hands of Pakistani authorities.

Speaking to The Media Line, Israr Ahmed, an Islamabad-based geostrategic and security analyst, described the PTM as a movement formed in 2014 by university students seeking to raise awareness about landmines in North Waziristan and the need to have them removed.

Ahmed added that the PTM gained popularity with Pashtun tribal members when, in 2018, Naqib Ullah Mehsud, a young Pashtun, was killed during an encounter staged by Karachi police. The PTM held nationwide rallies and sit-ins, demanding justice.

He said it remained unclear why the PTM leadership had shifted from being a rights movement to a group of hardliners, particularly against the Pakistan Army and other law enforcement agencies.

Ahmed said that Pakistani intelligence agencies had evidence to show that the PTM’s funding was handled by Wazir, while Javed was in charge of planning anti-state activities, speeches and rallies.

On April 29, Ghafoor briefed journalists, accusing the PTM of receiving foreign funding, including from the intelligence wings of the Indian and Afghan militaries, the RAW and NDS, respectively. He said the foreign funding was much greater than the funding it claimed to have collected from Pashtun donors around the world, and revealed that on April 8, 2018, the relative of a PTM leader visited the Indian consulate in Kandahar, where money was exchanged.

Ghafoor asserted that the Pakistan Army would do everything for the people living in the tribal belt but warned that the time was up for those playing into the hands of other factions.

The Media Line also spoke with retired colonel Syed Zaid Hamid, a veteran of the Soviet-Afghan war and prominent national security analyst. He said the PTM had strong support from Afghanistan and other hostile agencies, adding that the PTM was a new version of the banned Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which now rarely operates from Afghan soil.

He said the TTP fully supports the PTM in its militancy against security forces and that both have the same mode of operation: attacking security forces and inciting people to rebel against the state. He called the members of the PTM “miscreants and fugitives” of banned groups.

“The PTM activists are an ethnic face of TTP,” Hamid said. “A new wave of war against Pakistan has been launched. ISIS, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups, through their cyber terrorism, specialize in creating Syria-type insurgencies. Igniting a Pashtun revolt is part of their final war against Pakistan.”

North Waziristan, a mountainous region in northwest Pakistan, was under the control of terrorists before the Pakistan Army launched a massive operation to flush them out. Saeed Mehsud, a former intelligence operative, told The Media Line that the region was the epicenter of militant activities against Afghanistan and Pakistan. The area was also used as the base camp for insurgent activities against NATO forces in Afghanistan.

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