Baloch protesters end Islamabad sit-in after PM Imran's pledge to meet them

Published February 22, 2021
Nasrullah Baluch, centre bottom, leader of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, speaks while people hold placards and portraits of their missing family members during a press conference in Islamabad, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. — AP
Nasrullah Baluch, centre bottom, leader of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, speaks while people hold placards and portraits of their missing family members during a press conference in Islamabad, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. — AP

Protesters calling for an end to enforced disappearances in Balochistan ended a week-long sit-in in the capital on Monday, after an assurance that Prime Minister Imran Khan will meet them next month.

“We don’t have any big hopes from this government, but the way they have reassured us, we also have decided to give them a chance,” Sammi Baloch, who has been searching for her father Deen Muhammad since 2009, told Reuters.

She and other families have protested across the country for years to little avail.

The Islamabad protesters — 10 families of missing men and around a hundred supporters — said they will return if assurances are not met.

Security officials say many of Balochistan’s so-called disappeared have links to separatists. But actual court punishments have been rare.

The Pakistan Army and human rights ministry did not respond to Reuters' requests for comment for this story, including questions about specific family members sought by the protesters.

For one week, protesters held up photos of missing relatives under the watchful eyes of police surrounding them.

Among them was 60-year-old Baz Khatoon, who clutched a stack of news reports and court filings about her son, Rashid Hussain Brohi. She believes he was detained in Dubai in December 2018, was flown to Pakistan six months later, and then vanished without a trace.

Khatoon said her son moved to Dubai to be safe in 2017 after three male relatives, including his father, had turned up dead after being taken away by security forces over the years.

After Brohi was detained, Amnesty International and UN bodies looking into disappearances called on the Emirati authorities not to deport him to Pakistan for fear he would be killed.

Brohi’s mother has obtained a copy of an Emirati travel document showing Brohi’s Emirati visa was cancelled in June 2019, and that he left two days later on a flight to a small airport in Balochistan. The UAE government media office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Local news channels reported that he was brought back to Pakistan and charged with sending funds to gunmen responsible for a 2018 attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi. But Khatoon said she has been given no official explanation of his whereabouts.

“Just tell us our kids are safe, put them in jail, we don’t have any problem with that,” Khatoon said.

“If they were in jail at least we would know they are safe, at least I could take some food there for my son, or a blanket to keep him warm, or a change of clothes.”

Opinion

Civil liberties
23 Oct 2021

Civil liberties

The late I.A. Rehman is esteemed on both sides of the border.
The Hamza factor
Updated 23 Oct 2021

The Hamza factor

A new story is quietly unfolding inside the PML-N and there may yet be a surprise twist.
What should Imran Khan do?
Updated 23 Oct 2021

What should Imran Khan do?

Making a mishmash of religion and politics won’t turn Pakistan into a welfare state. Here’s what can.
Afghan health crises
Updated 22 Oct 2021

Afghan health crises

The condition and prospects of Afghanistan’s health sector are complex and grave.

Editorial

A final push
Updated 23 Oct 2021

A final push

PAKISTAN’S hopes of exiting the so-called FATF grey list have been shattered once again. The global money...
23 Oct 2021

Kabul visit

FOREIGN MINISTER Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s flying visit to Kabul on Thursday is the first official high-level...
23 Oct 2021

Baqir’s blooper

THE remarks made by State Bank governor Reza Baqir at a London press conference have hit a raw nerve in Pakistan. In...
Spate of attacks
Updated 22 Oct 2021

Spate of attacks

Following a near-constant decline since 2016, the year 2021 has witnessed a precipitous rise in violence-related fatalities in KP.
22 Oct 2021

Libel suits

THE outcome of two libel cases recently decided by courts in England should be edifying for the government — if it...
22 Oct 2021

Education losses

A NEW report on the education losses suffered by Pakistani children due to pandemic-induced school closures sheds...