Baloch activists seek protesters’ release within 3 days

Published December 24, 2023
Baloch protesters stage sit-in outside the National Press Club in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Baloch Yakjehti Committee/X
Baloch protesters stage sit-in outside the National Press Club in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy Baloch Yakjehti Committee/X

• BYC issues ultimatum for withdrawal of cases; demands UN probe
• 160 protesters granted bail, police claim

ISLAMABAD: As a protest outside the National Press Club in Islamabad against the enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings continued, the Baloch Yakjehti Committee — organiser of the long march — gave the authorities a three-day ultimatum to quash cases registered against students and activists and release all protesters.

A statement issued by the BYC on their social media platform said over 100 Baloch students were “missing” after the crackdown on the march by the police on Wed­nesday night. “Nearly 350 of our students and families were arrested…the females and 33 students were granted bail the next day, while more than 250 of our students are still in jail…more than 100 still have not been presented before court,” it claimed.

The protesters demanded the withdrawal of all cases registered in different cities — including Islamabad — against the participants of the long march and urged the Islamabad police to release their companions.

The protesters warned the authorities of ‘harsh steps’ if their demands were not met and said the state and the capital administration would be responsible in that case.

On Saturday, a judicial magistrate granted bail to 162 participants. A protester, however, told Dawn that only half of the protesters had been granted bail. The BYC claimed that though the bail was granted, their release was cancelled.

Gulzadi Baloch, 17, said: “We are still unaware of the whereabouts of 160 to 170 protesters… Some people have been saying that they are in Attock jail and others have been saying that the police have handed over them to the powers-that-be.” The participant alleged that the police were not allowing visitors and even “stopped the food delivery” for the protesters.

The police, however, said off­i­cials had been deployed aro­u­nd the press club for the security of the protesters, whose number was about 200. A senior police official, requ­e­sting ano­nymity, said the protesters were allo­wed to sit outside the NPC because of the ‘efforts and int­e­r­vention’ of caretaker PM Anwaarul Haq Kakar.

According to a police spokesperson, the protesters would not be allowed to move towards the ‘Red Zone’. “We hope protesters will fully cooperate with police for peace and security,” the spokesperson said.

Earlier, Chief Commissioner Mohammad Anwarul Haq, IGP Akbar Nasir Khan and others visited the NPC for a meeting with the protesters and relatives of missing persons.

‘Charter of demand’

The protesters said their mo­vement will continue till the release of missing students and acceptance of the demands of their long march. They also iss­ued a charter of demands, see­king a fact-finding mission hea­ded by a UN Working Group for a detailed investigation into rights violations in Balochistan.

“CTD Balochistan shall accept that it has killed Balach Mola Baksh in a fake encounter,” the second demand read. It called for the recovery of all missing Baloch persons, especially of those whose families were present in the sit-in outside the National Press Club.

The charter also asked the state to abolish the CTD and “death squads” in the province. It demanded a press conference from the interior ministry to “confess” the alleged killing of forcibly disappeared in “fake encounters”.

Hanif returns honour

Acclaimed author and journalist Muhammad Hanif, in solidarity with the Baloch community, returned ‘Sitara-i-Imtiaz’. “In protest, returning my Sitara e Imtiaz, given to me by a state that continues to abduct and torture Baloch citizens. Journalists of my generation have seen @SammiBaluch and @MahrangBaloch_ grow up in protest camps. Ashamed to witness a new generation being denied basic dignity,” he said in a post on X.

Balochistan Governor Abdul Wali Kakar, ex-MNA Ali Wazir, PPP leader Farhatullah Babar, and Senator Mushtaq Ahmed of JI also visited the protest camp.

Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2023

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