Pashtuns hold massive rally near Peshawar to press long-standing demands against Islamabad's iron-fisted handling of the community. The slogans at the rally held near Pishtakhara in Peshawar ranged from 'azaadi' (freedom) and human rights to the return of people abducted by Pakistani's security forces.
Media reports from Pakistan estimated that about 1 lakh people took part in the three-hour long 'Long March to Peshawar'. The participants came from a number of regions with significant Pashtun populations - Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Waziristan among others. The march was organized by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM).
The protestors voiced long-stand of the community, which was divided by the Durand Line, which locals say was drawn arbitrarily. The Pashtuns, concentrated as they are in areas that border Afghanistan, have for long been caught in the crossfire in the fight between the Pakistani military and the Taliban and other terrorist outfits.
Addressing the rally, PTM leader Manzoor Ahmad Pashteen asked the gathering to remain united till the goal of obtaining their constitutional rights is achieved. "There are two sorts of laws in this country: one is for killers and the other is for law followers but now PTM will stand with the deprived and poor people of Pakistan at any cost", Pashteen said to a charged crowd, Pakistani newspaper Daily Times reported.
He also announced that a gathering named 'Jalsa Raddul Fasaad' will be held on April 22 in Lahore, whereas another one in Swat on April 29 will be called 'Raah-e-Raast'.
The discontent of Pashtuns emerges in this form from time to time, and this mobilisation has sustained itself from February. If it continues to grow, Islamabad could be faced with the prospect of having political unrest along the entire western front, all the way south to already-restive Balochistan.