Pasthun Youth leader Manzoor Pashteen

Pak TV stations aired a Punjab provincial govt video advertisement portraying the popular anti-military and Pashtun nationalist leader Manzoor Pashteen as a terrorist. Pashteen blamed Pakistan's secret agencies for portraying Pashtuns as terrorists

ISLAMABAD: Several Pakistani TV stations aired a Punjab provincial government video advertisement which portrayed the popular anti-military and Pashtun nationalist leader Manzoor Pashteen as a terrorist. Though the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government claimed that it has taken it off air, the 30-second ad continued to run on television sets urging to report terror-related activities of Pashteen, a 26-year old leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) (Pashtun Protection Movement).

In the ad, the Punjab government juxtaposed Pashteen with warnings to report against "hate speech", display of arms, illegal use of loud speakers, "sectarianism" and any other suspicious activity during the holy month of Muharram on an emergency 15 number. The ad drew ire of Pashtun nationalists and rights activists terming it a deliberate act of racial profiling.

"Shocked to see this ad from Punjab government. Is a Pashtun in Punjab to be considered a terrorist even if he is a victim of terrorism & preaching non-violence? This is racial profiling. PTI should resist being used like this. If it's a compulsion, then come up with something plausible," tweeted Mohsin Dawar, a member of National Assembly from North Waziristan.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry responded to Dawar's tweet. "This advertisement was immediately taken off as soon it was brought to our attention, it was aired hardly a few times before channels were directed not to air such advertisement," Chaudhry tweeted, urging people not to circulate the ad on social media. Following Chaudhry's tweet, several channels continued to broadcast it repeatedly.

"Dear Fawad Chaudhry, it is very worrying that despite your announcement, the ad is still being aired. If you are not in control, then please tell us, who is? Who do we ask to take down this insult to all Pashtuns, which is also harming the sanctity of public messages in Pakistan?" Dawar tweeted on Monday.

Manzoor Pashteen, the PTM chief, however, blamed Pakistan's secret agencies for portraying Pashtuns as terrorists. "The intelligence agencies are responsible for sectarian violence in the country. Instead of taking action against the culprits, they are targeting the PTM, an organisation of innocent Pashtuns," Pashteen said.

The PTM rose to prominence earlier this year after the extra-judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young Pashtun model from Waziristan, in a fake police encounter in Karachi. Ignored completely by the local media and mainstream political parties for their strong views against the security establishment, the PTM had staged massive protests and rallies in different parts of the country against enforced disappearances, extrajudicial arrests and killings, as well as the mistreatment of the Pashtun community by security forces. "Yeh jo dehshatgardi hai, Iss ke peechay wardi hai" (the uniform is to be blamed for terrorism) is the movement's main slogan.