Global rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the Pakistani authorities to disclose the whereabouts of a Pakistani human rights campaigner documenting grave rights abuses in northwestern Pakistan’s Pashtun belt, where the military fought a long war against Islamist militants.
“We are concerned about reports of the disappearance of PTM activist Alamzaid Khan Mehsud,” Amnesty International Deputy South Asia Director Omar Waraich said on January 21. “His whereabouts must be disclosed immediately. Either produce him in court or release him without delay.”
Waraich said Mehsud was picked up at Pakistan’s southern seaport city of Karachi early on January 21.
“Other PTM activists with him were allegedly beaten up,” Waraich said while referring to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, a civil rights movement demanding security and rights for Pakistan’s more than 30 million ethnic Pashtuns, who make up the largest ethnic minority in the country of 200 million people.
“Freedom of peaceful assembly must be protected. Activists must never be attacked,” he said.
Mehsud was a prominent PTM activist. He often shared videos and posts on his Twitter and Facebook accounts that documented human rights abuses such as enforced disappearances, illegal killings, and landmines.
#ReleaseAlamZaib emerged as a top Twitter trend in Pakistan on January 21.
Karachi police have not commented on Mehsud’s disappearance, but a widely circulated video on social media showed him talking to uniformed and plainclothed police officers, some of them drawing handguns, before his detention.
Police and other government officials in Karachi could not be immediately reached for comment.
A January 20 police report in Karachi, however, nominated Mehsud and 15 other PTM activists to be investigated under terrorism laws after holding a major protest in Karachi the same day.
The PTM, active for almost a year now, has held dozens of major protests across Pakistan to demand that Pakistani security forces probe alleged extrajudicial killings, present thousands of victims of enforced disappearances before courts, and end harassment and aggressive searches at check posts and in the restive Pashtun homeland along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan.
Mehsud particularly focused on the victims of landmines. Clearing the unexploded ordinances from North and South Waziristan tribal districts and other regions of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province is a major PTM demand.
The movement has also called for a truth and reconciliation commission to probe Islamabad’s role in the country’s more than decade-long domestic war on terrorism.
More than 50,000 Pashtun civilians were killed and more than 6 million were displaced in militant attacks and military operations that first began in 2003.