DERA ISMAIL KHAN -- Pakistani authorities have released a prominent ethnic Pashtun rights activist, weeks after he was arrested on charges including sedition.
Manzoor Pashteen on February 25 left a prison in the city of Dera Ismail Khan in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to his lawyer and local activists.
The lawyer, Saeed Akhtar, said his client was released after being granted bail and ordered released.
The 28-year-old Pashteen was arrested in Peshawar on January 27 on charges including sedition, hate speech, incitement against the state, and criminal conspiracy.
The activist is the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), which has campaigned for civil rights for ethnic Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic minority. since 2018
The group has attracted tens of thousands of people out to public rallies to denounce the powerful Pakistani army's heavy-handed operations in the militancy-hit tribal regions and the military's alleged connection with Islamist militants.
The PTM has been calling for the removal of military checkpoints in tribal areas and an end to "enforced disappearances" in which suspects are detained by security forces without due process.
Pakistan's government rejects allegations that security forces or its intelligence service are responsible for enforced disappearances.
Human Rights Watch had urged Pakistani authorities to release Pashteen and drop the charges against him, saying that "using criminal laws to chill free expression and political opposition has no place in a democracy."
The activist had been "arbitrarily detained for exercising his human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly," according to Amnesty International.