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Arman Loni, the death of a poet
  • Arman Loni
    Arman Loni
Arman Loni was a professor of Pashto literature, and a poet. Died last year, the 2 February. And the death of poet, especially the violent death of poet, is something you can not forget. Ever. This author still remembers when, barely twelve, the italian poet and intellectual Pierpaolo Pasolini was brutally murdered: a political murder in disguise. Arman Loni, the poet, has been killed last year in Loralai, while partecipating to a peaceful sit-in outside the local Press club. He was protesting, along with many other members of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement: after the sit in he has been taken by police, beaten up and struck in the neck with a gun. Died immediately after, on his way to the hospital. After his death, torture marks were found on his body, but the police insisted he had died of an heart attack. And, following a well known pattern, refused to register an FIR against his murderers. Despite the protests and the calls of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on Pakistani authorities to investigate Arman's death in a clear and transparent way, nothing has been done until today. And Arman's death has been added to a long, long list, of people killed by the same authorities who were supposed to enforce their right to protest in a peaceful and democratic way. Three days later, the 5th February 2019, in Islamabad, more than eighty activists of PTM were detained for days without any formal charge and realised only much, much later despite the protests of human rights organizations and of the civil society. Back then, Manzoor Pashteen commented: “During the same day in the same city there was a protest of mujahedin fighters in solidarity with Kashmir. The security forces didn’t disturb them but tortured and arrested the peaceful nonviolent PTM members asking for human and civil rights”. A year later, nothing has changed. Activists and members of PTM are again in the streets, commemorating Arman's death and asking for the release of Manzoor Pashteen, arrested few days ago with the charges of sedition and anti-state activities and sent for 14 days into judicial custody, after being denied bail even if his prosecutors are unable to produce any evidence of his so called 'sedition'. The arrest of Manzoor has been followed by protetsts all over the country and abroad, and by another crackdown on PTM activists: more than 25 people have been taken in the past days and their whereabouts are not known yet. Again, following a well known pattern. The last one to be taken, few hours ago, has been Alamzeb Mehsud, recently released after a year of jail for protesting peacefully against enforced disappearences. And, as happened throughout this year marked by protests against Islamabad, the Pakistani press could not or did not want to report the whole story: the news, as happens more and more often in Pakistan, travel almost exclusively via social media and tell the story story of a country increasingly torn by discrimination and violence against most of its citizens. The Army propaganda, endorsed by the 'army of trolls' set up by Major General Ghafoor and not dismantled after his 'promotion', travels also on social media, trending ashtags meant to slander PTM and pass the official narrative: they are financed by 'foreign powers' and 'foreign agencies'. Very rich ones, of course, to fund thousands and thousands of ordinary people demonstrating in the streets. But the contradictions and the irony are lost on military and their supporters. Truth is, to quote again Manzoor: “We have been sacrificed for years on the altar of so-called strategic interests because of terrorist groups authorized to operate on our land. Our villages have been bombed and our people have been forced to abandon their homes in the name of counter-terrorism operations. Thousands of young people have been illegally detained or have simply disappeared. Many of our tribal leaders, many religious, political and student leaders have simply been murdered. The state has totally failed to prosecute those guilty of these crimes in the FATA and neighboring regions inhabited by the Pashtuns, such as the Khyber Pakhtunhwa and Balochistan". Waziristan, according to locals, looks every day more like an occupied country. “The good Taliban” they say “are still recruitng young people, still harbouring terrorists coming from other parts of Pakistan and helping them crossing the border with Afghanistan when they need to. They all work under the patronage of pakistani military”. And pakistani military has a standard way to deal with protesters: violence, abuses, harrassment, disappereances, extra-judicial killings. Is an old recipe, and proved to be a very bad one but pakistani Army prefers Twitter to history books. Otherwise they would know that East Pakistan, undergoing the same treatment, became Bangladesh. And they would also know that killing poets and intellectuals is never a good idea. They become immortal, and their words seeds ready to bloom and inflame minds and hearts.
Francesca Marino