- Weeks-long efforts of Pashtuns, leftists pay off as over 2,000 people join Manzoor Pashteen at Mochi Gate
LAHORE: The Pashtun Tahfuz Movement (PTM) rally at Lahore’s Mochi Gate attracted a large crowd on Sunday, including a large number of activists belonging to Lahore Left Front (LLF), owing to weeks-long efforts of the Pashtuns and progressive outfits.
This was the latest in the string of rallies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan organised by the PTM.
An ardent campaign by the Pashtun students of Lahore and progressive activists, notably Ismat Shahjahan, was one of the reasons for such an impressive turnout.
Days ahead of the rally, Pashtuns students belonging to different institutes and other progressive activists could be seen handing out pamphlets at public places ahead of the rally. In addition, students of some major universities, particularly Government College University, Forman Christian College and Punjab University, were in the frontline to make the rally a success.
At FC College, a peace march was arranged besides an awareness camp wherein students disseminated information about the PTM and the plights of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Pashtuns.
When asked from a PU student regarding these young mobilisers, he said no one bound these students to campaign for the rally; they took it upon themselves to make the rally a success.
“We have been going to markets, Pashtun-dominated residential areas and bus stops to propagate our message,” an FC student told Pakistan Today. “We have also visited other universities in this regard, including Beaconhouse National University and University College Lahore,” he added.
Commenting on the response they got from people, he said that people were curious about the movement and hoped that this curiosity would make them come to the venue.
Another campaigner, however, “lamented Punjabis’ apathy”.
Replying to a question, a PU student said Pashtuns shopkeepers “donated to the cause as they themselves have been a victim of the human rights violations, while, Punjabi shopkeepers, on the other hand, are sceptic about donations”.
When asked what made Pashteen come to the heartland of Punjabis, Awami Workers Party (AWP) leader Ismat Shahjahan, who came all the way from Peshawar to mobilise Lahoris, said that the Pashtuns have come to Lahore with their plight. “Our rally is open to all and we welcome everyone to participate,” she added.
Giving Pakistan Today a comment after the rally, she said it was an impressive turnout, adding people from all walks of life participated even from Karachi. She also termed her late night detention by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) along with nine other people “unfortunate”, saying such tactics are bound to be counter-productive. “Why did the anti-terror force detain us; are Pashtuns essentially terrorists,” she questioned.
The PU organiser said Pashteen needs to speak in Lahore as he wants to make it clear that the PTM is not against state or Punjab, it is about the provision of basic rights to Pashtuns. All the organisers had expressed hope that the turnout would be huge, estimating between 5,000 to 10,000 people. “All minorities’ students, including Baloch, Gilgitis and Sindhis, will be a part of the rally while people from across Punjab, even Pakistan, will also come to join Pashteen’s power show.