Baloch protesters’ crisis escalates

Authorities claim to have released all Baloch protesters who arrived in Islamabad last week to highlight the issue of missing persons but were rounded up in a crackdown.

However, the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC)—the protest organizers—disputes this, asserting that Islamabad Police have failed to release all detained protesters despite the three-day deadline’s expiration.

The BYC announced that people in Balochistan will stage demonstrations and strikes starting today (Wednesday) to protest against the authorities’ highhandedness.

“We doubt the government’s sincerity as its negotiation team, assigned by the premier for talks, has not reached out to us in the last two days,” stated a protest leader.

Caretaker Federal Minister for Information Murtaza Solangi, part of the PM’s committee, affirmed that the BYC march participants were released by court after due legal procedures.

“We await the protesters’ demands to proceed with negotiations. Once these demands are presented, we anticipate further discussions,” he stated.

Gul Zadi, a female participant in the march, voiced dissatisfaction with the government’s lack of commitment to meeting the protesters’ demands and missing the deadline. Consequently, she said, the BYC is expanding the protest’s scope.

“A shutdown and rallies are planned in Balochistan starting tomorrow [Wednesday],” she said. Gul reported an incident where a group of armed men allegedly harassed protesters on Tuesday night, seizing the loudspeaker used by protest leaders for speeches.

“These men threatened the people camping here [at the press club]. Although police were nearby, they did not intervene against these masked harassers,” she added.

On Monday, Islamabad Police claimed the release of all 290 detained Baloch activists arrested during last week’s attempted protest in the capital.

A Ministry of Interior spokesperson mentioned the decision to release the arrested protesters was due to negotiations by the PM’s committee and the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) directives.

The spokesperson emphasized the right to peaceful protest but condemned taking the law into one’s hands. Ensuring security in the Capital’s Red Zone was highlighted, containing constitutional institutions and the Diplomatic Enclave, at all costs.

The BYC had issued a three-day ultimatum to authorities, demanding the dismissal of cases against students and activists and the release of all protesters. The march, initiated in Turbat on December 6 following the alleged extrajudicial killing of a Baloch youth, reached the federal capital on December 20.

The Islamabad police’s use of force to disperse and detain demonstrators drew widespread condemnation from human rights organizations, politicians, the IHC, and even the highest offices, including President Dr. Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar.