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Pakistan MP accuses officials of lying about clash between activists, military

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Peshawar (Pakistan) (AFP)

A Pakistani parliamentarian and civil rights leader on Wednesday accused authorities of lying about a violent clash between Pashtun activists and security forces over the weekend as tensions soar between the military and rights group.

Moshin Dawar -- an MP and leading member of the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM) -- disputed claims by the military that activists assaulted the military during a protest near a checkpoint along the Afghan border Sunday, saying security forces fired into the unarmed crowd.

"We did not attack any army checkpoint rather we were attacked," Dawar told AFP by phone from an undisclosed location where he is believed to be hiding.

"The state and the state institutions are using force against us and I will raise voice against these excesses from whatever forum possible," he added.

Dawar went on to claim that at least 13 people were killed by the firing, dismissing earlier reports from the military that just three activists were killed during the melee.

Amnesty International called for an independent investigation into the incident earlier this week, saying "if the reports are correct that the army killed protestors by unlawfully using live ammunition, this would be a very serious violation of international law".

The incident follows months of rising tensions between the two sides, with the military publicly and repeatedly warning PTM leaders to end their criticism of the country's armed forces -- largely seen as a red line in Pakistan.

Since bursting onto the scene last year, the PTM has rattled Pakistan?s military with its calls to end alleged abuses by security forces against ethnic Pashtuns.

Darwar's claims also come as the Committee to Protect Journalists called for the release of Pakistani journalist Gohar Wazir who was arrested in nearby Bannu earlier this week after interviewing the PTM leader.

"Gohar Wazir should not have to face arrest merely for doing the job of reporting the news, even reporting on controversial events such as protests by the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement," said Steven Butler, the CPJ Asia programme coordinator.

A local official confirmed the arrest of the journalist along with 22 others, saying Wazir had violated a public order ordinance for taking part in PTM protests.

The PTM has unleashed festering anger over abuses allegedly committed against Pashtuns, including enforced disappearances and targeted killings, during the military's fight against insurgents.

Pashtuns account for roughly 15 percent of Pakistan's population, with a majority based in the northwest and a significant presence in the southern port city of Karachi.

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