Sardar Muhammad Arif Wazir (Pashto: سردار محمد عارف وزیر; May 2, 1982 – May 2, 2020) was a politician, activist, and one of the leaders of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. He served as president of the South Waziristan chapter of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) and chief of FATA Political Alliance South Waziristan. Arif belonged to the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe and was a cousin of MNA Ali Wazir.
|Died||May 2, 2020 (aged 38)|
|Cause of death||Gunshot wounds|
|Burial place||Ghawa Khwa, Wanna, South Waziristan, Pakistan|
|Occupation||Politician, human rights activist|
|Movement||Pashtun Tahafuz Movement|
|Relatives||Ali Wazir (cousin)|
Malik Mirzalam Wazir (uncle)
Alamgir Wazir (cousin's son)
On 1 May 2020, as he was driving home in Wanna just before the evening's fast-breaking meal, he was critically injured when gunmen from another vehicle shot him three times in the head, neck, and arm near his home. He succumbed to his injuries on the next day after being shifted to Islamabad for emergency surgery, becoming the 18th male member of his extended family to be killed by militants since 2003. PTM claimed that “state-sponsored militants” were responsible for the assassination and held widespread protests during which several of its activists, including Gilaman and Nadeem Askar, were arrested by Pakistani authorities. Amnesty International called on Pakistani officials to vigorously investigate the attack. The inspector-general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Sanaullah Abbasi, said that Arif was murdered because of his recent interview in Kabul, Afghanistan. However, when a reporter requested the information minister Shibli Faraz to share progress about finding the murderers, he declined, saying "I don't know the details" of Arif's assassination. Arif was survived by a widow and five children.
In the 2019 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial election, Arif contested the constituency PK-114 (South Waziristan-II) as an independent candidate. However, in the month before the election, he was arrested by the administration of South Waziristan along with another independent candidate, Muhammad Iqbal Masud, who was contesting the constituency PK-113 (South Waziristan-I). Similarly, another PK-113 independent candidate, PTM leader Jamal Malyar, was put under house arrest because of which he could not run an election campaign. The Election Commission of Pakistan ordered the administration to immediately release Arif Wazir and Iqbal Masud, declaring that their arrests were "tantamount to pre-poll rigging" in favor of other candidates. Arif was still able to garner 10,272 votes in the election, losing to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) candidate Naseerullah Wazir by a margin of 842 votes, who got 11,114 votes.
Activism and detentionsEdit
In July 2005, Arif's father Saad Ullah Jan, his brother, and his uncle Malik Mirzalam Wazir (father of Ali Wazir) were assassinated by militants during an attack near their home in Wanna in which four other members of his extended family were also killed. Because of this, Arif was forced to quit his studies and become the man of the house. He became a political activist afterwards.
In April 2017, Arif was arrested for protesting against the unavailability of Internet and mobile services in Wanna.
On 23 March 2018, Arif declared his full support for Manzoor Pashteen and PTM during a rally in Wanna. "The tribal Pashtuns abandoned homes to enable the army to take action against terrorists, but now the tribals are only treated as strangers on military check posts and are not even allowed to own homes and properties," said Arif. Later in the day, Arif led the rally to the home of slain Naqeebullah Mehsud in Makin, South Waziristan. On 24 March, Arif was detained by the authorities under the Frontier Crimes Regulations for organizing the rally. Three other PTM activists were also arrested. PTM supporters protested against the arrests in front of press clubs in Peshawar, Quetta, Swat, Swabi, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Zhob, Loralai, Killa Saifullah, Ziarat, Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and other cities.
On 3 June 2018, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, gunmen affiliated with the "Peace Committee" (a pro-government militant group) attacked Ali Wazir, Arif, and other supporters of PTM in Wanna. Ali Wazir remained unhurt but Arif and dozens of others were injured, while at least four supporters of PTM were killed in the attack. Many of the injured were taken to hospitals in Dera Ismail Khan.
On 19 June 2019, Arif was arrested by the Deputy Commissioner of South Waziristan, just a month before taking part in the provincial election as independent candidate. On 27 June, the Election Commission of Pakistan observed that this "act of the administration prior to conduct of election was tantamount to obstructing the election campaign," and ordered the district administration to release him within a day.
On 19 July 2019, the Peshawar High Court ruled that the detention of Arif and six other PTM activists was illegal and ordered that they should be released, if not wanted in other cases. However, Arif was soon arrested again during a protest in Wanna. On 3 August, Arif and 29 other PTM activists, who were arrested along with him in Wanna, were transferred to Dera Ismail Khan's central jail. In February 2020, Arif was released because the authorities could not prove any charges against him.
On 17 April 2020, Arif was detained by the police in Wanna and accused of making an "anti-Pakistan speech during his visit to Afghanistan" in the previous month. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, however, the allegation of being involved in anti-state activities was "an expedient label for human rights defenders, particularly those associated with the PTM." He was released on bail on 27 April.
On 1 May 2020, only four days after his release from jail, Arif was driving home when gunmen from another vehicle started following him. As he slowed down his car because of a speed breaker, the gunmen started firing at him. He was first hit by a bullet in his upper arm, followed by two other bullets in his neck and head. The attack came just a few minutes before sunset during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, as he was going home to have a fast-breaking meal (iftar) with his family.
He was rushed to a local hospital in Wanna and then to DHQ hospital in Dera Ismail Khan. The doctors struggled to locate his depressed cephalic vein in the arm to set up a cannula for blood transfusion. They inserted a tube down his trachea to enable him to breathe artificially and applied pressure bandage to his head and neck wounds. In unconscious state, he was then transported by road to PIMS hospital in Islamabad for emergency surgery. However, he succumbed to his injuries at PIMS hospital on the morning of 2 May, which was his 38th birthday. His body was carried to his native village Ghawa Khwa in Wanna, where he was buried after the Islamic funeral prayer for him on 3 May.
PTM activists claimed that “state-sponsored militants" were behind Arif's assassination. Mohsin Dawar, one of the leaders of PTM, said: “We cannot say that these militants are unknown; they are known. They have their offices in Wanna; they are allowed by the state.” Talking about the 2018 attack in Wanna on Arif and his cousin Ali Wazir, Dawar asserted that the military referred to the gunmen involved in that attack as "peace committee", instead of "Taliban". "The government give them protection; they give them resources; if this is not called state support, what else can we call it,” Dawar added.
The inspector-general (IG) of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Police, Sanaullah Abbasi, said that Arif Wazir was assassinated because of his recent interview to a private Afghan channel in Kabul. In March 2020, Arif and several other PTM leaders, including Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar, had traveled to Kabul as they were invited by the Government of Afghanistan to participate at President Ashraf Ghani’s oath-taking ceremony at the Arg presidential palace.
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