Human rights group call for independent inquiry into death of Karima Baloch

ANI
·4-min read
Karima Baloch during her intervention at UNHRC.
Karima Baloch during her intervention at UNHRC.

Hong Kong, December 24 (ANI): Human rights group based in Hong Kong has asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to initiate an independent inquiry into the abduction and mysterious death of 37-year-old Banuk Karima Baloch.

Karima was a prominent student leader of Balochistan, who escaped Pakistan in 2016 to take refuge in Canada. She was found dead in Harbour front near Toronto's lakeshore.

Karima Baloch had gone missing on Sunday around 3 pm. Toronto Police had requested public assistance in locating her.

"We, the signatory of this urgent appeal, demand from Prime Minister Trudeau to immediately hold an impartial inquiry into the murder of Baloch activist in an Island. The government of Canada must also investigate the possibility of hands of intelligence agencies of Pakistan in her murder", said International Human Rights Council (IHRC).

In 2016, the BBC had included Baloch in their 'BBC 100 Women 2016' list for her work involving "campaigns for independence for Balochistan from Pakistan.

She had used her social media profile to highlight abductions, torture, forced disappearances, and other human rights violations that people in Balochistan were being subjected to by the Pakistan government and the army.

In her activism, she had placed emphasis on fighting for the rights of Balochi women and had highlighted how the legal system and religious groups in Pakistan would use state and social machinery to intentionally target women, particularly from vulnerable groups.

IHRC said in a statement, "Karima Baloch, had been sentenced to three years in prison and fined Rs 150,000 (USD 1,875) after she and several other women demonstrated in August 2006 against disappearances. The charges were made in her absence. The case was based mainly upon the removal of a flag from a government building without authorization (under section 123 B of Pakistan penal code). She has been charged with defiling the flag and with sedition, which under section 124 A of PPC means 'whoever by words or by sign or by visible representation excite (s) disaffection towards the federal or provincial government. The sentence was given by the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) in Turbat, Balochistan province on June 2, 2009".

The issue of disappearance was very close to Karima's heart, she campaigned against the enforced disappearance of one of her uncles, Abdul Wahid Qamber Baloch, who was arrested in March 2007, tortured, and kept incommunicado in secret military cells for nine months.

He was handed over to police on April 21, 2008, and acquitted of nine out of ten changes, but remains in custody and charged with anti-state activities.

Another of her uncles, Dr Khalid Baloch, was killed in August 2007 in an alleged encounter, in which the Frontier Corps (FC), a paramilitary organization, claimed to have been ambushed.

"According to reports by journalists and rights groups, encounter killings are often staged in Balochistan as a way of ridding the authorities of unwanted detainees. In 2014, one leader of BSO Awami, Zahid Baloch was arrested by the military when students were having a secret meeting to chalk out a plan of action against the continuous disappearances of students. It was then that Karima Baloch was asked to head and take charge of BSO", said IHRC.

Consequently, the intelligence agencies and Frontier Corp (FC) began searching for her and raided the houses of her relatives to arrest her. Fearing for her life Karima escaped to Canada in 2016. However, her exile did not stop her from activism and fight for the rights of the Baloch people. Karima also represented the case of disappearances of more than 20 thousand Balochs in the United Nation Human Rights Council.

"Following her mysterious death the Minister for State for Parliamentary Affairs, Mir Muhammad Ali Khan shared the target list of state institutions when he tweeted that Karima's death is good riddance. Expressing sadistic nature he wished the same fate to other activists and opponents of state's narrative and hegemony such as Tarek Fateh, and bloggers Mr. Goraya and Taha Siddiqui", said IHRC.

This is not the first time that state officials have been found hand in glove with the security establishment target and kill operations General Pervaiz Musharaf- the ex-military dictator of Pakistan in one of his interviews and clearly stated that the activists and those daring to raise their voice against state's oppression should be targeted wherever they are.

"We demand that Canadian government enhance the security of all political asylum seekers in the country as they are increasingly at risk of being disappeared and murdered", said the human rights group. (ANI)