July 06, 2023
By Ahmed Saeed
Scores of students and rights activists in Turbat held a protest rally against the enforced disappearance of a Baloch youth, Salim Baloch, and called for his immediate release. Baloch was reportedly picked up by security forces in the early hours of July 4 from his house in Balochistan’s Kech district. He was an alumnus of the Punjab University Lahore where he obtained a Master’s in History.
After completing his degree, he returned to his native town where he worked as a computer operator in the Municipal Corporation office in Turbat on a daily wage basis.
Baloch was also an active member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and worked at its regional office in Turbat. In its statement, the HRCP Turbat chapter clarified that Baloch had no links with any illegal or proscribed organization, and demanded his immediate release.
Security forces also briefly detained another youth, Akram Baloch, from Turbat, only to release him a few hours later.
Jabbar, Salim’s brother, told Voicepk.net that the family is in the dark as to his whereabouts, but they are hopeful that he will return soon.
Waqar Baloch, a representative of HRCP Turbat, stated that while enforced disappearances are a chronic issue in Balochistan, the recent wave of disappearances follows a June 26 suicide attack targeting a police vehicle in Turbat, which resulted in the death of a police officer.
The bombing was carried out by an educated female youth, Sumaiya Qalandarani, who was a journalist before joining the proscribed militant organization Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). This is the second incident in which a female Baloch suicide bomber was involved, the first being Shari Baloch who targeted a van occupied by Chinese nationals at Karachi University on April 26.
In response to the incident, security forces have carried out mass arrests and enforced disappearances of Baloch youth, including women, from Balochistan, Lahore, and Islamabad.
In April 2022, Salim’s cousin, Bebagr Imdad, a student at NUML University Islamabad, was picked up by law enforcement agencies from the hostel of the Punjab University Lahore. Bebagr was staying in Salim’s hostel room during Eid holidays. He was later released on the orders of the Lahore High Court, following a petition filed by Salim Baloch.
On April 29, 2022, the Islamabad High Court took notice of the ongoing harassment and incidents of enforced disappearances of Baloch students, and formed a Commission comprising rights activists, lawyers, and veteran Baloch and Pashtun politicians.
The Commission, headed by Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, submitted its report to the IHC in February 2023. It included members such as MNA Sardar Akhtar Mengal, Senators Mian Raza Rabbani, Mushahid Hussain Syed, Kamran Murtaza, former Senator Afrasiab Khattak, former chief secretary of Balochistan Nasir Mehmood Khosa, former MNA Asad Umar, Professor Dr. Asma Faiz, Ali Ahmed Kurd, Hafeez ur Rehman Chaudhary, Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, and Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights.
Through extensive efforts, including fact-finding visits, data collection exercises, and analysis of testimonies by various stakeholders, the commission strongly “recognized the gravity of the issue pertaining to ethnic profiling and enforced disappearances of Baloch students,” as stated in a press releas issued by the Commission
The Commission hoped that all major stakeholders would realize the sensitivity of the issue, related to the alienation of Baloch youth and take remedial measures.
Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on May 16, 2023, directed the federal and provincial departments to ensure steps for implementation of recommendations contained in the Commission’s report.