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IHC asks IGP Islamabad why Baloch protestors being sent back forcefully

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) inquired of the capital’s police chief on Friday why the Baloch protesters, who faced harsh police action a day earlier, were being forcefully sent back to Quetta.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq while hearing a petition filed by Baloch protesters against unlawful detention and their right to protest questioned why these individuals were being forced to go back home after the police crackdown.

“They can stay in Islamabad, protest, or go back home. The choice is theirs,” the chief high court judge observed while addressing Islamabad Inspector General (IG) Akbar Nasir.

A day earlier, the Islamabad police employed brutal force against Baloch demonstrators protesting enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in Balochistan. Over 200 protesters were detained, subjected to tear gas, water cannons, and police batons.

Human rights organisations, politicians, and analysts strongly condemned these actions. By evening, the government claimed that 90% of the detained Baloch individuals had been released, excluding those “unidentified” by the police. However, during a petition seeking the release of the detained protesters, it was revealed that over 50 Baloch women protesters were reported missing after the police action.

The protestors were represented by lawyers Ataullah Kundi and Imaan Mazari among others.

During the hearing today, the court directed the representatives of the protesters and their counsels to approach the Islamabad SSP (Investigation) to record their version and requested a report from the police.

Detailing the police’s ‘highhandedness’, Kundi said that the protestors were bundled into buses to be sent ‘back home’, on the purported orders of the prime minister.

Expressing displeasure over the police’s actions, the IHC CJ asked who was present in court to represent the police. A police officer presented himself. Irked by the representative not being the Islamabad IG, Chief Justice Farooq summoned the police chief in half an hour.

Later, appearing before the court, IG Nasir said that he had arranged for the transport for protestors.

Justice Farooq took exception to the police chief’s statement, again stressing that the protestors could stay wherever they wanted to. He then asked the IG where the protestors were being kept.

At this, IG Nasir informed the court that the women were staying at a hostel in I-10.

At this point, Kundi informed the court of the IG miscommunicating the release and whereabouts of the protestors a day earlier..

The court instructed the police chief to oversee the matter and inform the counsels of the detainees’ whereabouts, release women at the I-10 hostel, and stated that a detailed order will follow.

The next hearing will be conducted by Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb.

A day earlier, the IHC Chief Justice had warned the Islamabad police chief against creating any hindrance in the protest, observing that the marchers had the constitutional right to stage a demonstration.

Later, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar formed a three-member committee comprising of federal ministers for negotiations with the BYC representatives.

Sardar Mengal slams police action

“If the detained women are not promptly released, the governor will submit his resignation,” declared the BNP (Balochistan National Party) Sardar Akhtar Mengal, with Balochistan Governor Malik Abdul Wali Kakar and other party leaders present. Governor Kakar belongs to BNP.

Emphasising the persistent neglect of Baloch grievances by the ruling authorities, Mengal stated, “We demand justice and are vocal about it.” Governor Malik Wali Kakar affirmed his commitment to follow the party chief’s instructions regarding the potential resignation.

Mengal condemned the use of force against Baloch women protesters in Islamabad, who were advocating for the return of missing persons. He criticised the Islamabad police for resorting to tear gas and baton charges instead of addressing the concerns of the demonstrators.

The Baloch nationalist leader called on the federal caretaker government to ensure the immediate release of arrested women and children.

Crackdown on Baloch protestors

The trouble started when Baloch Yekjehti Committee (BYC) members and other protesters were stopped from entering Islamabad.

The long march started on December 7 from Turbat in Balochistan against the alleged extrajudicial killing of Balach Baloch.

The Islamabad police blocked entry points of the city to prevent the protesters from reaching the National Press Club. The protest aimed to voice resentment until concrete action was taken against those implicated in the killing of Balach.

The protesters accuse the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of unjustly branding Balach a terrorist and carrying out his cold-blooded killing.

The CTD vehemently denies these allegations, asserting that the incident resulted from an armed clash between “miscreants” and security forces in the Pasni road area of Turbat.

The HRCP criticised the police crackdown on the marchers. In a statement, it urgently called “on the government to organise a delegation to meet the protesters and give their legitimate demands a fair hearing”.

“This treatment of Baloch citizens exercising their constitutional right to peaceful assembly is inexcusable. It also reflects how little the state thinks of the protesters’ demand that their right to life and liberty be upheld,” it added.

Amnesty International, in a separate statement, said it was concerned by the “excessive use of force by law enforcement against the Baloch long march protesters”.