A police killing of an aspiring model has fired up Pakistan’s biggest ethnic minority

Many Pashtuns in Pakistan believe their community is systematically victimized by racist policing and profiling.

When Naqeebullah Mehsud was murdered last month by the Karachi police, the aspiring model’s death prompted thousands of Pashtuns, Pakistan’s biggest ethnic minority, to take to the streets to demand justice.

Sit-ins in the capital Islamabad in early February lasted for more than a week, eventually spreading nationwide and even reaching neighboring Afghanistan, where Pashtuns are the largest ethnic group.

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The sweeping protests, an apparent political awakening of the Pashtuns, forced the government to respond: On Feb. 16, Pakistan’s Chief Justice ordered the arrest of Rao Anwar, the police superintendent believed to be responsible for Mehsud’s murder. Authorities had claimed the 27-year-old was a member of the Pakistan Taliban when they shot him, during a raid on what they described as a "terrorist hideout" in eastern Karachi.

Nearly 30 million Pashtuns live in Pakistan. Since 9/11, many have fled violence in their ethnic homelands near the Afghan border for safety in the cities, as government anti-terror operations prompted violence with the Taliban.

But many Pashtuns in Pakistan believe their community is systematically victimized by racist policing and profiling.

“We don’t want anyone else to be martyred as Naqeebullah was. We are fed up, We won’t tolerate any more dead bodies,” said Noor Rehman Mehsud, Naqeebullah Mehsud’s cousin.

While the Pashtun protests have wound down — the police superintendent still remains at large —other demands levied by protestors, including the removal of landmines, accounting for “disappeared” persons by the Pakistani military, and ending security checks and curfews in Pashtun tribal homelands have yet to be addressed.

This segment originally aired February 9, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.