Opposition criticises 'disrespect' meted out to Karima Baloch's body

Published January 25, 2021
Karima Baloch was found dead in the Canadian city of Toronto last month. — Twitter/File
Karima Baloch was found dead in the Canadian city of Toronto last month. — Twitter/File
A general view of the Senate session on Monday. — DawnNewsTV
A general view of the Senate session on Monday. — DawnNewsTV

Members of the opposition in the Senate on Monday expressed concern over alleged "disrespect" with which they said the body of Baloch rights activist Karima Baloch was treated before being laid to rest in her hometown in Balochistan.

Karima Baloch, who was also known as Karima Mehrab, had gone missing in Toronto’s downtown waterfront area last month and her body was found a day later. She was living in the Canadian city in exile for about five years.

After unverified reports — mostly in the Indian media — that Karima had been killed, Canadian authorities investigating the circumstances had termed the activist's death as "non-criminal".

On Sunday, Karima's body was repatriated to Pakistan and was taken by security officials from Karachi airport to Balochistan. Her funeral prayers were held amid tight security in Tump area of Turbat and were attended by immediate family members and hundreds of locals, according to The Guardian.

Speaking on the issue in the Senate on Monday, Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) Senator Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini said Karima's body had been "abducted" from the airport and that no one was allowed to accompany it to her native village. He added that "everyone wanted to attend" Karima's funeral prayers in Balochistan but a curfew was imposed in Makran and mobile networks were suspended, while none of this was shown by the media.

"The security agencies are afraid of a dead body ... of a graveyard," the senator remarked.

Jamaldini said in-absentia funeral prayers were being offered for Karima throughout Balochistan. He added that the deceased's mother was allegedly not allowed to take a last look at her and people weren't allowed to accompany her coffin to the graveyard.

"Is this justice? Are these what human rights are?" he questioned, adding that the curfew in Makran was imposed without taking the provincial government into confidence.

"Karima hadn't arrived to fight or to conquer Makran," Jamaldini added. "Karima Baloch's body was disrespected."

The senator said a shutter-down strike was being observed in Balochistan in protest against the situation, adding that such actions would keep giving rise to "hatred".

Senator Rukhsana Zuberi of the PPP agreed with Jamaldini. "Whatever [he] said regarding Karima Baloch was true; we agree with him," she said.

Meanwhile, Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar of Balochistan's ruling Balochistan Awami Party said Karima on the annual Hindu occasion of Raksha Bandhan had "appealed" to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help.

"Karima Baloch believed in ending Pakistan," he said, adding that she and her supporters had "announced a war" and taken up weapons against the country.

He denied the impression that her body was "abducted", suggesting instead that police had taken it into custody because any "unpleasant incident" could take place.

Kakar said the Sindh Police had taken the lead in the burial and Karima's body was taken to the graveyard under security.

He said those accusing the Pakistani state of being involved in Karima's death despite the Canadian police saying no foul play was suspected should provide evidence in support of their claims.

"When Sajid Hussain died in Sweden, an attempt was made to use it against the Pakistani state as well," Kakar said, referring to the journalist who hailed from Balochistan and was found dead in mysterious circumstances outside the Swedish city of Uppsala last year.

"We condemn whoever carries out violence on the Pakistani soil," the senator added, saying his party supported security forces' efforts to prevent violence.

"These people have killed thousands of people. We will continue resistance against these murders till our last breath."

In his remarks, PTI Senator Fida Muhammad advised his fellow lawmakers against "doing politics" over deceased people.

He asked how the Pakistanis state could term Karima's death a murder if the Canadian authorities had determined it to be "natural".

The senator claimed that some people "wanted to take Karima's coffin to Lyari for politics".

Karima was a prominent student organiser who campaigned for Balochistan’s rights and later moved to Canada amid threats. She was named one of the BBC’s 100 inspirational and influential women of 2016.

According to her Twitter profile, Karima was the former chairperson of the Baloch Students Organisation — Azad and the Baloch National Front (BNF). She was a vocal campaigner for Baloch rights and missing persons.

Karima was critical of the Pakistani establishment and had been living in Canada since 2016, where she had been granted asylum. A close friend of hers told the BBC she was receiving threats while in Canada.

Resolutions passed

Among other matters on the agenda, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution presented by Jamaat-i-Islami emir Senator Sirajul Haq condemning "the spread of information based on blasphemous content, falsehoods and fraud on [online] search engines". It called upon the government to take "immediate and meaningful" measures to stop blasphemous material from being shared online.

The upper house also passed a resolution calling for the establishment of rehabilitation centres for drug addicts in every district of the country.

Briefing the Senate on the issue, Interior Minister Ijaz Shah said the initiative had been discussed with the Punjab chief minister and rehabilitation centres will start being built in every division of Punjab after two months.


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