Baloch protesters give govt 7-day ultimatum to meet demands

Published December 28, 2023
Members of the Baloch Yakjehti Committee address a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday. — BYCislamabad
Members of the Baloch Yakjehti Committee address a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday. — BYCislamabad

The Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC), one of the groups organising the Baloch protest march in Islamabad, on Thursday issued a seven-day ultimatum to the government to meet all its demands or the movement would put forth its case before the Baloch people.

Dr Mahrang Baloch, one of the organisers of the protest that is demanding an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of their community, said in an Islamabad press conference today that the government was being given a week for negotiations on the following demands.

Dr Mahrang said that a fact-finding mission hea­ded by a UN Working Group should be sent for a detailed investigation into rights violations in Balochistan, an agreement should be signed under the auspices of the Working Group for the elimination of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, all victims of enforced disappearances should be immediately released, restrictions should be put on the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and “state-sponsored death squads” should be eliminated as well.

She further demanded that the Ministry of Interior should “confess” to the alleged deaths of disappeared persons in fake encounters, adding that an acknowledgement letter be issued regarding this and a press conference held with the names of all victims.

Dr Mahrang also said that fake cases against all peaceful protesters should be taken back.

“If the state does not hold sincere negotiations on the above demands and does not show seriousness and if the treatment of the past week with protesters continues then after seven days, the movement will express its disappointment with all state institutions against state policies of genocide and treating Balochistan like a colony, and put its case before the Baloch people.”

She added that the Baloch people would then be the ones to decide matters.

Dr Mahrang said the state would have to make clear in the week to the people how serious it was about the “Baloch genocide”. She said the state would have to practically prove and end all human rights violations and illegal measures in Balochistan.

“The decision will be in the court of the Baloch people if the state is not ready to change its colonial mindset.”

At the outset of her press conference, Dr Mahrang alleged that the state was exerting power over the past week to bring the Baloch sit-in to an end.

Criticising the brutal treatment meted out to the protesters by the police and the administration, she remarked how the events took place in the federal capital instead of some backwater area of Balochistan.

“No person should now be under any doubt or suspicion of the state violence against the Baloch.”

She said how the state had treated the protesters “like enemies” and elements had harassed their camp in the night provided that “the state is using every kind of measure against the Baloch.”

Lashing out at some from the journalistic community too, she said when the state action failed, “state personnel in the garb of journalism” were used to “torture” the protesters by attempting to create a false narrative.

“The whole of Balochistan is in the grip of state violence and barbarism currently and every day there seems to be an increase in this. When the state treats peaceful protesters like this in front of the global media then you can understand what the state’s behaviour is without the presence of the media or the internet.”

She said Baloch people across the country had come out to the streets and demonstrated to the state that the community would no longer accept “state terrorism”.

Criticising the government, she said on the one hand it talked about negotiations to solve issues and on the other hand, the protesters were subjected to violence, arrests and abductions.

Dr Mahrang said the Islamabad police had lied about releasing all protesters, adding that the reality was that all of them were still not released.

The BYC earlier today accused the police of sabotaging their seminar preparations in the capital, by allegedly switching off their sound system.

The BYC also shared videos of police at the venue outside the National Press Club. In one of the videos, Dr Mahrang can be heard requesting a policeman to leave and not disrupt their programme.

Rights activist Sammi Deen Baloch posted a video of the speakers being forcefully taken away as a crowd looked on.

At the venue, one of the organisers, Saira, from Khuzdar said: “We were going to hold a press conference but the police tried to take away the speakers and the participants.

“The police and the administration are panicking. There is no household in Balochistan that has not found a mutilated body. Institutions make our household members disappear before our very eyes.”

She lamented that previously mutilated bodies would be found, but now people are being “killed in fake encounters”.

Dr Mahrang and Sammi also posted videos of a verbal confrontation with an Islamabad police officer.

The development comes days after hundreds of participants of the long march were detained by the capital police, which the police said had subsequently released in batches earlier this week.

The march — which started in Turbat on December 6 after the alleged “extrajudicial killing” of a Baloch youth by CTD officials — had reached the federal capital on Dec 20.

The Islamabad police had subsequently used brutal force to disperse and detain the demonstrators with over 200 taken into custody from different areas of the federal capital. The action was strongly condemned by human rights organisations, politicians, the Islamabad High Court (IHC), President Dr Arif Alvi and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar and analysts.

Later, the Islamabad police on Dec 24 said the bail of all detained Baloch protesters had been approved and they were being released.

However on Wednesday, the IHC — while hearing a petition filed by Baloch protesters against unlawful detention — was informed that 34 protesters were still in the custody of the police.

IHC Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb had pointed out that the police were not treating them like other groups, including those who staged public gatherings in the Red Zone.

He asked the police not to harass the protesters and allow them to stage their peaceful protest.

The SSP operations had subsequently informed the court that they could be released after the identification parade was completed. The court directed the police to complete the process and sought a report by Dec 29.

The Islamabad police are yet to issue a statement addressing the claims made by the Baloch protesters regarding purported disruptions caused by the local police in the organisation of their seminar.

Govt says all protesters released

Meanwhile, a statement from the interior ministry said 34 more arrested protesters were released after fulfilling the legal requirements on the recommendations of the committee established on the prime minister’s instructions to negotiate with the Baloch protesters.

“Now all the arrested protestors have been released,” the statement said.

It added that committee members — federal ministers Fawad Hasan Fawad, Murtaza Solangi and Jamal Shah along with Balochistan Governor Abdul Wali Kakar — held talks with the protesters in which the latter demanded the immediate release of all those arrested.

The statement said that on the first day of the talks, the committee had issued orders for the immediate release of arrested women and children.

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