Pashtun protests expose human rights abuses under Pakistani visa rules

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
5 Min Read

Fazal ur Rehman Afridi, Executive Director of the Khyber Institute and representative of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in Europe, has expressed concern over the ongoing protests by Pashtuns against the stringent visa regulations imposed by the Pakistani government.

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Afridi, who was attending the 56th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, said these regulations violate international law and have a serious impact on the social, economic and financial well-being of the Pashtun people.

“For the past eight months, Pashtuns have been protesting against the Pakistan government's stringent visa rules, which violate international law. People living in adjacent areas, border areas and especially along the disputed Durand Line have family, business and social ties on both sides,” Afridi said.

Speaking to ANI, a Pashtun activist said, “Banning such people will have a very bad impact on the Pashtun people economically, socially and financially.”

Afridi highlighted the Pakistani government and military's violent responses to peaceful protests.

The PTM representative said, “For the past one month, Pashtuns have been organizing protests and sit-ins in Chaman. But instead of listening to the grievances of the Pashtun people, especially the PTM, the Pakistani government and its army are attacking protesters and civilians. They have systematically attacked sit-ins several times and recently killed a 15-year-old boy. Pakistani military forces have forcibly disappeared more than 200 Pashtun leaders. More than 100 have been injured.”

“This is a violation of international law and goes against our basic fundamental rights: our right to peaceful assembly and our right to freedom of expression,” he said.

Last year, the Pakistani government decided that only people with valid passports and visas would be allowed to cross the Chaman border.

Earlier, Pakistanis and Afghans could cross the border with their respective identity cards.

The stringent document requirements have disrupted the lives of locals, leading hundreds of Pashtuns to camp outside the Friendship Gate, the authorized border crossing between Chaman and the Afghan district of Spin-Boldak, in protest against the one-document system.

Afridi accused the Pakistan Army of carrying out extrajudicial killings and targeting innocent civilians under the guise of operations against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and al-Qaeda.

He urged the international community, especially the United Nations, to protect the basic fundamental rights of the Pashtun people against the Pakistani Army, which he accused of committing gross human rights violations against various ethnic minorities, including Baloch, Sindhis and Kashmiris.

“More than 200,000 houses of Pashtuns have been destroyed, 25,000 shops have been demolished and 80,000 Pashtuns have been killed in the military operation called Zarb-e-Azb,” Afridi said.

He said, “We have protested against this, but the Pakistan Army has joined hands with the TTP and settled their families in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Now, the Pakistan Army is announcing operations in which the Pashtuns are suffering losses. Pakistan's economy is a war economy, either war is being waged inside the country or proxy war is going on against others. Pashtuns have been facing genocide for the last 20 years, and there will be a sudden increase in it. We want to inform the international community, especially the regional powers, to intervene and protect the Pashtuns.”

Fazal ur Rehman Afridi called for international attention to the plight of Pashtuns, Balochs, Sindhis and Kashmiris.

Afridi said, “Historical nations have no importance in this country. They have realised that the right to self-determination is the only way forward. We request the international community to help us as we are being tortured, forcibly disappeared and our businesses are being destroyed. Terrorism is on the rise in Pakistan and it continues genocide against Baloch, Pashtun, Sindhi and Kashmiris.”

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