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Updated December 26th, 2023 at 14:53 IST

Pakistan frees Baloch activists arrested while protesting extrajudicial killings | Deets here

Federal authorities in Pakistan asserted they had released 290 activists detained in Islamabad on Monday.

Digital Desk
Baluch activists
Baluch activists | Image:ANI
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Islamabad, Pakistan: Federal authorities in Pakistan asserted they had released 290 activists detained in Islamabad on Monday. However, later, an activist group reported that over 100 remained in custody, and "some of them were missing." A statement from the Pakistani interior ministry on Twitter, formerly known as X, declared, "Peaceful protest is everyone's right, but no one can take the law into their own hands," as it announced the mass release of Baloch activists, reported VOA news.

The Baloch Solidarity Committee later informed that more than 160 protesters had been freed, but over 100 were still in police custody, with some missing. The committee expressed dissatisfaction with the information provided by Islamabad police to both them and the media.

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290 Baluch Activists freed by Pakistan police

Baloch activists travelled to the capital in a convoy to protest alleged extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances in Baluchistan province. The convoy, comprising dozens of vehicles with women, men, and children, covered 1,600 kilometres from Turbat to Islamabad to highlight the death of 24-year-old Balaach Mola Bakhsh in police custody.

In response, police in Islamabad used batons and water cannons to disperse the rally, preventing it from reaching the high-security “red zone.” Numerous arrests were made during the crackdown, sparking a nationwide outcry. Human rights groups and civil society activists demanded the release of protesters and urged the government to address their longstanding grievances.

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The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), an independent watchdog, expressed dismay at the state’s response, condemning the use of force against peaceful protesters, including women, children, and the elderly. Despite mainstream media downplaying the events, social media platforms brought attention to the protest, leading the government to form a delegation to engage with rally leaders. Mahrang Baloch, a central leader of the Baloch Unity Committee, denounced the police action and reported being assaulted by female officers with batons, according to ANI reports.

Provincial counterterrorism authorities claimed they had arrested Balaach Mola Bakhsh on November 20 with explosives, but his family rejected the official account. They alleged he had been in police custody since October and was killed in a staged encounter on November 23. Baluchistan, rich in oil, gas, and minerals, has experienced a low-level insurgency for two decades. Security forces face daily deadly attacks from Baloch insurgents who accuse the state of exploiting the province's resources. The region has witnessed forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and counterinsurgency operations by Pakistani security forces. The HRCP called for a prompt and transparent investigation into enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, emphasizing the need for accountability, as per Radio Free Europe.

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Published December 26th, 2023 at 14:53 IST

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