ISLAMABAD: As the seven-day ultimatum given by the Baloch Yekjehti Committee (BYC) ended on Wednesday, its leader, Dr Mahrang Baloch, issued a new line of action to press for the recovery of missing persons. She announced that a protest camp would be set up in front of the United Nations (UN) offices.

She also expressed gratitude to the judiciary for restraining the Islamabad police and capital administration from taking any action against their protest camp outside the National Press Club.

Talking to Dawn, Dr Mahrang Baloch criticised the Islamabad police for profiling the participants as well as visitors to their camp.

“Nobody has sought security from the police, but their large presence is only to intimidate the participants of the protest camp,” she said, adding that, “they cannot scare us now after the directives of the courts”.

The decision of the Islamabad High court came amid strong rumours that the capital police would launch an operation in the early hours of Wednesday taking advantage of the dense fog to dislodge the BYC protest camp.

The rumours started to circulate in the wake of the warning given by the SHO of Kohsar police station who visited the camp on Tuesday and said the state was providing security to the Baloch Yekjehti Committee.

Earlier on Wednesday, Dr Mahrang addressed a news conference in which she said that the seven-day deadline given to the government for the recovery of missing persons had ended, but there had not been any response from the relevant authorities.

“Our campaign has now entered the third phase and we will not be bogged down by threats and pressures because we have a justified demand based on basic human rights,” she said.

Dr Mahrang, who was flanked by Seema Baloch, sister of missing Shabbir Baloch and Sabghatullah Baloch, offered an olive branch to the authorities, saying that the BYC was for talks, but there should be a change in the attitude of the authorities.

“They are still harassing our supporters; FIRs have been lodged against our people and nobody was discussing the real issue, which was the recovery of our missing people,” Dr Mahrang said, adding that, “this just shows how serious they are in resolving the issue”.

The BYC leaders said they would continue their protests across the country and the protest camp in Islamabad would be further expanded with the participation of more families of missing Baloch persons, adding that social media campaigns as well as shutterdown strikes would be initiated.

“We will decide the next course of action in the coming days based on the response of the authorities,” Dr Mahrang said adding, “and if all peaceful means to persuade our demands fail, we will establish our camp outside the UN office to seek help from the international community”.

She also expressed her regrets over the statement of the caretaker prime minister, Anwaarul Haq Kakar, who claimed that the missing persons were terrorists.

“At least the prime minister has acknowledged that there was an issue of missing persons, and as for declaring them terrorists, I want to know which court has declared them terrorists; what about the implementation of various court decisions to produce the missing persons,” Dr Mahrang said.

Meanwhile, the situation at the camp was deteriorating as many participants, including children and the elderly, were facing the brunt of extreme Islamabad weather. A few people had also fallen sick.

At the same time philanthropists and leaders of various political parties were regularly visiting the protest camp, including leader of Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen Allama Nasir Abbas and Senator Mushtaq of Jamaat-i-Islami. They also donated warm beddings and clothing to the camp participants.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2024

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