Turbat protest

Published December 1, 2023

ONCE again, people in Balochistan are out on the streets against the alleged excesses of the state. The trigger of the latest controversy has been the killings on Nov 24 in Turbat, allegedly by CTD personnel, of a number of individuals, including Balaach Mola Bakhsh, in an ‘encounter’. The slain man’s family claim the encounter was fake, and that Balaach had actually been in custody. Protesting has been ongoing since the killings and the slain individual was laid to rest on Wednesday. The protest has affected large parts of Makran, with political parties, civil society activists and traders calling for a judicial inquiry into the incident. In a related development, the Islamabad High Court hauled up the state for failing to retrieve missing Baloch students. Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani asked why 28 students remained untraced, and warned that the prime minister and other officials could have cases registered against them if the students were not recovered. The caretaker interior minister promised to “fulfil our responsibility”.

Several large demonstration movements have taken place in Balochistan over the last few years, including the Haq Do Tehreek protests, and, before them, marches and protest camps set up to trace missing persons. The common denominator in all these protests is the state’s inability to ensure the fundamental rights of Balochistan’s people. The Turbat protest continued on Thursday, with demonstrators calling for thorough investigations into the alleged extrajudicial killings. It is hoped that the committee formed by the Balochistan government can uncover the truth; if state functionaries were indeed involved in extrajudicial killings, the guilty need to be punished. Dubious encounters are a countrywide problem, but the situation in Balochistan is particularly acute due to other contributory factors. As Justice Kayani noted, if individuals are suspected of involvement in anti-state activities, they must be dealt with according to the law. Extrajudicial methods will hardly bring stability to Balochistan.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2023

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