Baloch protesters being freed after bail: police

Published December 25, 2023
PROTESTERS at a sit-in outside the National Press Club in Islamabad on Sunday.—Courtesy X/@BYCKech
PROTESTERS at a sit-in outside the National Press Club in Islamabad on Sunday.—Courtesy X/@BYCKech

• Organisers claim 100 students still missing, demand they be produced in court
• Balochistan minister accuses protesters of ‘following an agenda’

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad police said on Sunday the bail of all detained Baloch protesters — taken into custody during a demonstration demanding an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings — had been approved and they were being released.

However, the protesters have accused the police of “giving false statements” and reiterated that more than 100 Baloch students were still “missing” and they had not been produced before any court.

The Islamabad police statement came a day after the Baloch Yakjehti Committee, organiser of the Baloch long march in Islamabad, gave the authorities a three-day ultimatum to quash cases registered against students and activists and release all protesters, Dawn.com reported.

The long march, which started in Turbat on Dec 6 after the alleged extrajudicial killing of a Baloch youth by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials, reached the federal capital on Wednesday.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Islamabad police said the protesters had demanded the release of their detained companions during a meeting with a cabinet committee formed by the prime minister.

“Keeping in view the legal requirements, the bail of the arrested protesters has been approved. The detained protesters are being released,” it said.

Earlier in the day, the caretaker government had said it was holding negotiations with the protesters. Interior Secretary Aftab Akbar Durrani had emphasised that staging peaceful protests was every Pakistani’s right.

Over 100 Baloch ‘missing’

Meanwhile, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), the BYC said its movement had entered the 31st day and continued in the form of a sit-in outside the National Press Club (NPC).

“Nearly 250 of our students and activists are still in the custody of Islamabad police, but our courage and hopes are high, and this struggle shall continue,” it added.

Mahrang Baloch, one of the organisers, said that more than 100 Baloch students were “missing” and had not been produced before any court. “If the students are not released and first information reports (FIRs) against peaceful protestors are not withdrawn, then the long march will be compelled to take harsh steps and the state will be responsible for this,” she wrote on X.

Achakzai sees an agenda

Addressing a press conference in Quetta, Balochistan caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai said that hundreds of thousands of non-Baloch had been expelled from the province. “Thousands were killed. Every day, from the poor to the highly educated have been killed in Balochistan,” he said.

He asked why no one was talking about this when people had been killed just based on their identity. He said the non-Baloch were being killed and asked why there was silence in this regard.

“Missing persons are Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) terrorists — they are in the mountains, or they are being taught in India’s training camps,” he said. Mr Achakzai further said that militants were putting women at the forefront to put pressure on the state.

He said the militant groups were at war with the state, one they would never win.

“Further, saying that this is a long march by the committee — there is no Baloch committee or Baloch Yakjehti Council,” he said, adding that the people of the province were as patriotic as those in other provinces.

“Therefore, [they] cannot represent the Baloch people. A handful of people left from Turbat under

an agenda, headed to Islamabad on a long march and tried to manipulate the people through the media,” the minister said.

Published in Dawn, December 25th, 2023

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