QUETTA: All the four Baloch women who had been taken into custody by law-enforcement agencies last month were released from jail on Monday.

Balochistan Home Minis­ter Mir Ziaullah Langove confirmed that Hameeda Bibi, Nazal Bibi, Sakina and Saeeda have been released from Central Jail, Khuzdar.

The development comes days after Baloch nationalist parties and rights activists staged protest demonstrations in Quetta and other parts of the province against the arrest of the women in Awaran.

Sources told Dawn that the women were released on the basis of an investigation report, after no evidence had been found to corroborate the allegations against them. The investigation was conducted after the issue had been raised at the top level.

On Dec 5, Balochistan National Party president Sardar Akhtar Mengal, who supports the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the Centre, staged a protest in front of the National Assembly Speaker’s dais and threatened to withdraw his party’s support for the PTI government if the women did not return home.

Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri, who was then presiding over the session, took notice of the arrests and requested federal Interior Minister retired Brig Ejaz Shah to look into the issue and get it resolved.

A day later, the interior minister met Mr Mengal and other BNP-M leaders in Mr Suri’s chamber and assured them of the government’s ‘complete cooperation’ in the matter.

The National Party and even provincial ministers also expressed their reservations over the arrest and demanded their immediate release.

The law-enforcement agencies after arresting the women handed over their custody to the Levies Force. Later, the counterterrorism department of police investigated allegations against them. Police and Levies personnel on Nov 30 announced their arrest and accused them of carrying arms and explosives for Baloch separatist groups in Awaran.

Calling the arrest a direct attack on the traditions of Baloch people, BNP-M leaders demanded the formation of a high-level committee to investigate the matter. BNP-M acting president Abdul Wali Kakar told a press conference that the four Baloch women were ‘picked up’ from their homes.

A day after the incident, they were presented before the media in the presence of Levies and police personnel, Mr Kakar said. Some weapons were also shown to the media and it was claimed that they belonged to the arrested women, he added.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019