Second civil rights leader critical of army detained in Pakistan

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Pakistani authorities on Tuesday detained a senior member of a civil rights movement as he protested the detention of his group’s charismatic leader one day earlier, a police official said.

Mohsin Dawar, a sitting parliamentarian, was leading a demonstration in Islamabad of around 100 members of the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), which accuses the army of abuses.

He along with around 25 of those with him “were taken into the custody,” a spokesman for the Islamabad police, Zia Bajwa, told AFP.

Amnesty International issued a statement calling for them to be freed. “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as recognized in Pakistan’s constitution and international law,” the group’s South Asia arm tweeted.

The PTM had been protesting the arrest of Manzoor Pashteen, the former veterinary student who now leads the protest movement.

In videos posted on social media police can be seen apparently dragging Dawar into a van outside the Islamabad Press Club.

Dawar was also detained for months last year for allegedly inciting violent clashes with security forces during another protest.

The PTM have pressured the military since 2018 with calls to end alleged abuses by security forces targeting ethnic Pashtuns in the restive tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The area, once plagued by militancy and unrest, is where Washington believes Pakistan is providing safe haven to militant groups including the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network.

The army has carried out many operations in the region, and security across Pakistan has dramatically improved in recent years.

The military maintains a heavy presence there, however, and the PTM has tapped into festering anger over alleged abuses against Pashtuns - including enforced disappearances and targeted killings.

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