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Massive Pashtun Rally Protests Student’s Killing

February 20 rally in Bajaur demanded justice for Ahmad Shah who was murdered in the southern seaport city of Karachi this month.
February 20 rally in Bajaur demanded justice for Ahmad Shah who was murdered in the southern seaport city of Karachi this month.

Thousands of Pashtun protesters in northwestern Pakistan have called on the authorities to swiftly arrest the murderers of a university student.

The February 20 rally in Bajaur, one of the seven districts in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), demanded justice for Ahmad Shah. The bullet-ridden body of the 22-year-old university student was found in the southern seaport city of Karachi on February 17 after he disappeared two days earlier.

“My dear brother was brutally killed in cold blood,” said Sayed Shah, a younger brother of the victim. “His killing was the height of savagery. He was first tortured and then shot dead.”

Shah now wants Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, and powerful army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa to help in arresting his brother’s murderers and delivering them to justice.

“I beg them to act soon,” he said.

Like millions of Pashtuns, Ahmad Shah left his impoverished and insurgency-riddled homeland near the Afghan border to seek security, education, and employment in Karachi and other major cities. But his family buried him in their ancestral graveyard in Bajuar.

His murder in Karachi is the latest event to prompt Pashtuns to protest for an end to unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, racial profiling, discrimination, and landmines littering their homeland.

Zafar Khan, one of the organizers of February 20 protests in Bajaur’s Inayat Kalay, says they have plans to expand the protests in coming days.

“Tomorrow we will protest in the town of Nawagai, and then we will extend these protests to everywhere from [the national capital] Islamabad to Karachi,” he said.

Pakistani authorities have not commented on the protest in Bajaur. It follows a 10-day sit-in protest in Islamabad where thousands of Pashtun activists demanded that Pakistani civil and military authorities address their grievances.

The protest ended after Abbasi and senior military officials assured them the government would investigate and deliver justice for Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young aspiring model who was killed in an alleged staged gunbattle with police in Karachi in January.

Senior military officers also announced steps to address complaints about unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and landmines.

Authorities in scenic Swat Valley, however, have handled the situation differently. Police in the mainly Pashtun-populated district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, which adjoins FATA, are investigating six young Pashtun leaders for sedition and terrorism.

On February 18, they organized protests against harassment and abuse at military checkpoints in the region, which suffered under Taliban rule between 2006 and 2009.