Pakistan: Baloch protesters issue 3-day ultimatum for release of detainees


Baloch protesters demanding an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in their province issued a three-day ultimatum to the state on Saturday, calling for the immediate release of all demonstrators detained so far and the quashing of charges against them, failing which the demonstrators would be “compelled to take harsh steps and the state and its administration shall be responsible for this”.

The demands were issued by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) as they claimed in a statement to the press that over 100 previously detained members were not presented in courts and thus “missing” while they continued their rally outside Islamabad’s National Press Club (NPC) amid the presence of the police.

The long march led by Baloch women – which started in Turbat on December 6 after the alleged “extrajudicial killing” of a Baloch youth by the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials – had reached the federal capital on Wednesday. However, the police had blocked entry points of the city along with major arteries to prevent the protesters from reaching the NPC.

The Islamabad police had subsequently used brutal force to disperse and detain Baloch demonstrators with over 200 protesters taken into custody from different areas of the federal capital. The demonstrators were also met with tear gas, water cannons and police batons.

The events were strongly condemned by human rights organisations, politicians and analysts. On Thursday evening, the government said 90 per cent of the Baloch men and women taken into custody were released, except for the men who “could not be identified” by police. The police actions were censured by Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq, President Dr Arif Alvi and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar as well.

The Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) earlier announced a rally and sit-in, saying that it would also hold a press conference on the next step of the movement.

The press release issued from the group said nearly 350 demonstrators were arrested of which 33 were granted bail, over 250 were still in jail and over 100 were still not presented in court whose status was missing.

“We are issuing a three-day ultimatum to state for the withdrawal of FIRs (first information report) registered against peaceful protesters and releasing the 100+ Baloch students whose status is still missing,” the press release said.

It warned that the long march would be “compelled to take harsh steps” for which the state and the administration would be responsible if the missing protesters were not produced and charges against them were not dropped.

It also demanded that FIRs against the demonstrators in different cities should also be quashed. Earlier in the day, the Islamabad police said a court had issued orders to release 163 previously detained protesters on bail after directives from a committee constituted by the prime minister.

A subsequent post from the BYC said that news regarding the release of 167 protesters was “false”.

“They were initially granted bail, but through various delay tactics, their release was cancelled. And currently, they are behind bars, while 100+ students are still missing. They have not been presented before any court, and their location is unknown.”__Daily Times