Pakistani Anti-Military Activist Released After Bail

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A Pakistani activist who leads a popular movement to force the country’s military to abandon the alleged backing of Islamist militants has been released, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Manzoor Pashteen, leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), walked out of the prison in a north-western town nearly a month after his arrest on sedition charges, lawyer Asad Aziz said.

Pashteen, whose fierce criticism drew thousands to public rallies in a rare challenge to the army’s dominance, was given bail more than a week ago, Aziz said.

A 28-year-old villager from a remote town on the Afghan border, Pashteen rose to prominence after he founded the PTM in 2018 and led massive public rallies.

The PTM, also known as the Pashtun Protection Movement, was founded to defend the rights of ethnic Pashtuns in regions where the army had conducted offensives against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

PTM leaders accused the army of targeting some groups and sparing others who fight in Afghanistan as proxies for Pakistan’s spy agencies.

The United States and Afghanistan have also been blaming the military for harbouring militants, but the PTM is the first local voice against the army.

Mohsin Dawar, a Pakistani MP and a fellow member of the PTM confirmed Pashteen’s release and called it a victory for the group’s stance.

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