Another month and another Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) activist has been arrested by the state; albeit temporarily. The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) picked up Gulalai Ismail at Islamabad airport as she returned to the country from London. The move is linked to the FIR registered against more than 15 PTM supporters for holding the Swabi jalsa in defiance of the authorities. As such, any attempts to frame the arrest of a well-known human rights defender as evidence of how the sanctity of due process reigns supreme in Naya Pakistan will not cut it. Admittedly, a Swabi court has rejected a pre-arrest bail application for some nine PTM leaders in connection with the August 12 jalsa. But it should not be forgotten that arrest warrants were issued by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government. This naturally raises important questions about the new set-up’s commitment to safeguarding fundamental Pashtun rights; which the PTI took up in the last pre-election furlong. Equally troublesome is that this is happening at a time when the Interior ministry portfolio is held by Prime Minister Imran Khan. Meaning that the FIA reports directly to him. The Pashtun youth are committed to peaceful protest to secure constitutional rights, such as an end to enforced disappearances and check posts as well as the clearing of landmines. To be sure, it is a tragedy that this ethnic minority has for decades remained caught in militant-military cross hairs simply because of an accident of geography. Yet perhaps the greatest misfortune in this entire scenario is the PM’s betrayal of this community. For as an opposition member, Khan had agreed to act as mediator between he PTM and the security establishment; pledging to take a list of grievances to all the way to the COAS. Indeed, the last government constituted a jirga to enter into negotiations with the Pashtuns. Though this soon fell by the wayside as the former did not hold the authority to accord itself legal status. And while it is back to square one for this marginalised community, the ongoing detention of civil society activists — not to mention the increasing impediments confronting journalists as they go about their work — signals a dangerous trajectory. This climate of targeted fear is simply reinforced when a High Court judge is sacked for maligning certain state institutions but not over indirect calls to anti-Ahmadi incitement. Or when the religious right is at liberty to threaten the judiciary with “terrible consequences” in the event that it upholds Asia Bibi’s appeal against blasphemy charges. Indeed, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Rizvi will not settle for anything less than capital punishment. Yet he remains free from state censure. All of which should be a cause of concern for the PTI government. Not least because such falsely constructed and selective forms of justice suggest failure to act as an effective guarantor of citizenry rights. Thus Khan and his team must look towards introspection if they are to realise the dream of a Naya Pakistan for all. As opposed to what looks an awful lot like the engineered Purana of yesteryear. * Published in Daily Times, October 13th 2018.