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Pakistani Activist Rearrested Amid Crackdown On Pashtun Civic Rights Group


Pashtun activist Said Alam Mahsud (file photo)

Pakistani authorities have rearrested a prominent ethnic Pashtun rights activist who is facing sedition charges almost a week after he was released on bail.

Police and the civil rights group say Said Alam Mahsud, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), was taken into custody in the northwestern town of Dera Ismail Khan on January 18.

He was first arrested early this month in the city of Peshawar before being released on bail on January 13.

A PTM leader, Alamzeb Mehsud, said Mahsud had been charged with "sedition, making anti-state comments, and addressing unsanctioned rallies" in two cases registered in 2019.

Mahsud’s arrest comes a day after another PTM leader, Sanna Ejaz, was detained and forcibly expelled from the southwestern province of Balochistan, amid a growing government crackdown on the movement.

The PTM has campaigned since 2018 for the civil rights of Pakistan’s estimated 35 million ethnic Pashtuns, many of whom live near the border with Afghanistan where the military has conducted campaigns that it says defeated the Pakistani Taliban.

The movement has attracted tens of thousands of people to public rallies in recent years to denounce the powerful Pakistani Army's heavy-handed tactics that have killed thousands of Pashtun civilians and forced millions more to abandon their homes since 2003.

International rights groups say authorities have banned peaceful rallies organized by the PTM and some of its leading members have been arbitrarily detained and prevented from traveling within the country.

Some members have also faced charges of sedition and cybercrimes.

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