Protesters contest govt claim of 290 Baloch activists’ release

Published December 26, 2023
Baloch protesters stage sit-in in chilly cold outside the National Press Club in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy BYC/X
Baloch protesters stage sit-in in chilly cold outside the National Press Club in Islamabad. — Photo courtesy BYC/X

ISLAMABAD: The caretaker federal government on Monday claimed to have released about 290 Baloch demonstrators held in the wake of a crackdown on a long march organised by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee.

The claim was contested by the organisers of the protest, who said the authorities released about 130 protesters on Sunday night, but not a single person was released on Monday as claimed by the government.

In a statement on ‘X’ (formerly Twitter), the interior ministry said the decision to release the protesters was taken in light of the negotiations held between the Baloch demonstrators and a cabinet committee, and a court verdict.

In its statement issued, the interior ministry “confirmed the release of all the 290 detained protesters” and made it clear that while peaceful protests were the right of every citizen, no one would be allowed to take the law into their hands.

It said that the security of the Red Zone would be ensured. The special help centre set up by the police has completed its job, the ministry claimed.

‘Course of action’

Speaking to Dawn, Gulzadi Baloch — who spoke on behalf of Dr Mahrang Baloch — said they would announce a “strict course of action” on Tuesday since the government has seemingly ignored their demand for the release of their comrades. The three-day deadline for the release of all Baloch protesters also ended on Monday night.

BYC to announce future course of action today as three-day ultimatum expires

Ms Baloch said that a press conference and “a strong statement would likely be issued today”.

“There has not been any activity by the authorities on Monday and about 130 detainees were released on Sunday night, but 100 others, including Dr Zaheer, were still in custody,” she said.

According to Ms Baloch, “Most of those named in FIRs and whose names are present in the list of detainees we have shared with the authorities have not been released.”

On the other hand, the sit-in outside the National Press Club continued for the fourth consecutive day on Monday, but due to cold weather, the elderly and most of the women participants are not spending the night at the camp. Young men and some women, however, are present at the protest camp opposite the press club.

Baloch long march

The Baloch protest march — which started in Turbat on December 6 after the alleged extrajudicial killing of a Baloch youth by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) personnel — reached the federal capital last week.

However, they were met with brutal force and more than 200 protesters were taken into custody by the Islamabad police. In light of the crackdown, the march led by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee had converted into a sit-in outside the National Press Club.

On Saturday, the BYC gave a three-day ultimatum to the government to quash the cases registered against students and activists and release all of the protesters. The following day, the Islamabad police announced it was releasing all the detained protesters after their bail was approved.

Meanwhile, in a social media post on Sunday night, the BYC said only 160 protesters had been released until now and over 100 were still in police custody or “missing”.

It said the Islamabad police had not provided correct information to the protesters and the media, adding that Dr Zaheer Baloch, one of the detained protesters, was still missing. “We are concerned about his life,” the committee said

Published in Dawn, December 26th, 2023

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