7 youth and trade union activists have been abducted by the army and Sindh Rangers after participating in rally in support of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) outside the Karachi Press Club on Sunday. They were picked up immediately following the demonstration in Karachi, which had been called to express solidarity with a PTM rally in Lahore that was held on the same day. The activists’ whereabouts remain unknown as of Tuesday, and their families are growing more worried by the minute.
The missing activists are all members of Lal Salaam (Red Salute), a Trotskyist group affiliated with the International Marxist Tendency (IMT). They include Karim Parhar, a PTM leader and member of the Red Workers Front (RWF) in Quetta; Attaullah Afridi, an organizer of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA); Aftab Ashraf, central organizer of the RWF; Umer Riaz, a PYA organizer in Islamabad, Zain ul Abideen, a central organizer of the PYA; Gulbaz, an RWF organizer in Kashmir; and Bilawal Baloch, a PYA activist from Quetta.
According to the Daily Times, the only newspaper that reported the abductions, six of the missing activists were picked up outside the Cantt Railway Station by plainclothes officers while waiting to board a train to Lahore, where they had planned to meet up with other activists participating in the PTM movement. 3 other people, including a woman, were followed and harassed by unidentified men in plain clothes after attending the rally in Karachi.
Lal Salaam and the International Marxist Tendency have asking workers and youth around the world for support as they fight for the release of the activists. Demonstrations were held in support of the missing activists in several Pakistani cities on Monday, including Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta. An international day of action has been scheduled for April 25, during which protests are to be held outside Pakistani embassies across the world. The IMT has also asked supporters and sympathizers to write to Pakistan’s Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior in order to demand the the activists’ release.
The PTM emerged in response to the extrajudicial murder of an innocent Pashtun man in Karachi in January. The growing movement has given working and middle class Pashtuns a platform to air their grievances against the military, whose “war on terror” has been waged in the tribal areas with sheer brutality over the past decade-and-a-half. The PTM has received widespread support from socialists and left-wing activists in Pakistan. The movement’s recent rally in Lahore was organized by the Lahore Left Front, an alliance of left-wing organizations including, the Awami Workers Party, Lal Salaam, Class Struggle, Communist Party Pakistan, Revolutionary Socialist Movement and Feminist Collective.
The involvement of left-wing forces in the PTM demonstrates its progressive potential. This potential is also evidenced by the enthusiastic participation of women in the movement. While participating in PTM rallies and public meetings, left activists have raised slogans not only against the oppression of Pashtun and Baloch people, but also against mass poverty, unemployment, and imperialism. The army and the government are no doubt terrified that socialist ideas could gain influence in the PTM, enabling it to develop into a broader movement against the state. The crackdown on left activists is likely to continue in order to prevent this from happening.
Ali Mohsin is an independent writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org