Karachi police on Monday manhandled and detained 28 protesters, including females, who were demonstrating near the main gate of the Sindh Assembly against the alleged abduction of two Baloch students of the University of Karachi (KU) by law enforcement agencies.
The two students of KU’s Philosophy Department — Doda Baloch and Ghamshad Baloch — were allegedly taken away from their home near Maskan Chowrangi in Gulshan-i-Iqbal on June 7 and their whereabouts are unknown since then.
Their relatives and members of civil society organisations had set up a camp outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) for the last four days. On Sunday night, they managed to reach the Sindh Assembly's main gate where they staged a sit-in for the release of the missing students. Police and district administration held talks with them, persuading them to vacate the place as the provincial legislature’s budget session was scheduled to be held on Monday (today).
South-SSP Asad Raza told Dawn that the police detained 19 men and nine women as they tried to enter the assembly building on Monday. The officer denied that protesters were treated roughly. He added that woman police officers had detained female protesters.
The SSP said that all detained protesters were later released.
Meanwhile, the protest organisers accused the police of manhandling women and children. They said the Sindh police had retracted from their promise of arranging a meeting of the missing students’ relatives with Counter Terrorism Department officials on Monday. Therefore, they said, they again staged a sit-in near the Sindh Assembly building where the police manhandled and arrested protesters.
Earlier, around 120-130 relatives and members of different organisations, including activists Seemi Din Baloch, Abdul Wahab Baloch, Aamna Baloch, Naghma Sheikh and others, had resumed their march around 4:50pm from the KPC towards the assembly building where the budget session was ongoing. Passing through Sarwar Shaheed Road, they had staged a sit-in at the assembly's gate.
Speaking to the protesters there, Seemi said that taking away students was equal to the "character assassination" of the educational institutes. She said Doda and Ghamshad were students but they were taken away because "being Baloch was a crime". If they had not been Baloch, they would not have been taken away, she said.
Seemi urged Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab to recover the two students. She announced that the protesters would continue their demonstration outside the assembly till the release of the missing students.
Sheikh alleged that people from the Baloch community were being taken away from Quetta, Panjgur and Karachi. She said if two missing Baloch are released, then in return, "10 others are whisked away".
Meanwhile, footage shared on social media showed the police treating the protesters in a rough manner and dispersing them.
'Barbarism at its peak'
PPP Secretary General Farhatullah Babar criticised the "use of disproportionate force and arrest of women", adding that such treatment was "highly disturbing".
Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari termed the situation as "barbarism at its peak".
MPA Sanaullah Baloch strongly condemned the Sindh police's "heavy-handedness and inhuman act of violence against innocent and peaceful Baloch women and students".
He said the Sindh government should investigate the incident.
Qaumi Awami Tehreek president Ayaz Latif Palijo said that Sindh's land should not be used for violence against the Baloch community.