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Friday, May 24, 2024

Baloch protesters called off protest in Islamabad

Despite adverse weather conditions, the camp persisted, with organizers accusing the police of harassing and profiling supporters, as well as filing false reports against them.

Baloch demonstrators, who had maintained a protest camp outside Islamabad’s National Press Club (NPC) since December, concluded their sit-in on Tuesday. This decision followed a request from the NPC to the Islamabad police to clear the Baloch rights camp, a request that was retracted after facing widespread criticism, including from the journalistic community.

Organized by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC), the sit-in aimed to highlight the issues of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Despite adverse weather conditions, the camp persisted, with organizers accusing the police of harassing and profiling supporters, as well as filing false reports against them.

The NPC, in its letter to the Islamabad police, sought the relocation of the protesters to alleviate difficulties for the press club, residents, and the business community. The letter emphasized that the sit-in and security concerns were hindering the club’s operations, events, and impacting the local community.

Dr. Mahrang Baloch, a protest organizer, expressed disappointment over the NPC’s letter, asserting that the media community has an obligation to support neglected voices. She highlighted the pressure to vacate the camp, with alleged threats and harassment, including the circulation of false information.

No one heard us

In a subsequent press conference, Mahrang criticized the NPC’s letter as a “stain” on journalism, vowing to remember the adversities faced by the protesters. She declared the intention to return to Balochistan, emphasizing that they are not against the state but feel opposed by it. Mahrang lamented the lack of attention to the issue of missing persons from political parties during election campaigns.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed solidarity with the Baloch camp, condemning persistent harassment and efforts to dismantle it. The commission called for the legitimate demands of Baloch protestors to be acknowledged without resorting to force or defamation.

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In the past month, Islamabad police cracked down on Baloch protesters, leading to widespread arrests and public outcry. The government initially defended the action, citing it as a necessary measure to prevent a “catastrophe.” However, following public pressure, all detained Baloch protesters were released. The Islamabad High Court subsequently ordered authorities to refrain from hindering or using force against the Baloch marchers in response to a petition filed by activist Sammi Deen Baloch.