Karima Baloch's death raises questions on world's silence over Pakistan’s continued persecution of the Baloch
Karima Baloch, 37, was found dead near a river in Toronto on Sunday
Days after well-known human rights activist Karima Baloch was found dead on Sunday in Toronto, a video clipping has gone viral on the social media that shows the Baloch activist lashing out at the Pakistan Army for its continued attempt to torture, rape, abduct and kill people in Balochistan.
She is also seen attacking the Justin Trudeau government for allowing retired Pakistani Army and ISI officers to settle in Canada while ignoring unabated extrajudicial killings and torture of Baloch people in Pakistan.
Her death in mysterious circumstance in Toronto has sparked anger among human rights activists and they are demanding an impartial probe into the incident, without the involvement of any Pakistani-Canadian police personnel.
At the same time, eyebrows are being raised at the Toronto Police hastily characterizing it as a ‘non-criminal death’. This, when a detailed investigation has not been conducted and the postmortem report is yet to become available.
Hakim Baloch, who runs Zrumbesh broadcast, a community media outlet from London, said, “We fear this could be another planned move of the Pakistan’s deep-state to silence Baloch activists.”
Though he said he could speak about the issue in detail only after the release of Karima Baloch’s post mortem report, he was worried about the safety and security of Baloch activists, journalists and intellectuals settled in different parts of the world.
In April, Sajid Hussain Baloch, a Pakistani journalist who had settled in Sweden in 2017 after fleeing Pakistan in 2012, had gone missing in March 2020.
His body was found near the Fyris River, outside Uppsala in Sweden on April 23. Reporters without Borders (RSF), a press freedom organization, suspected Sajid Hussain Baloch could have been abducted at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency. Like Karima Baloch, Sajid Hussain was a strong Baloch voice of dissent against the Pakistan government, the Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies.
He had fled Pakistan as he started receiving death threats for reporting on human rights violations, crime and corruption. As per a report in The Diplomat, an international online news magazine, Sajid Hussain had to leave behind his wife and children in Pakistan, and had spent years in exile in Oman, Dubai and Uganda before reaching Sweden in 2018. While working as a lecturer in Uppsala University, his Balochistan Times extensively documented drug smuggling, crime and militancy in Balochistan at the behest of ISI.
There is an apprehension among the Baloch community that Pakistan’s secret agency could have killed journalist Sajid Hussain. Similar fear is expressed by human rights activists with regard to suspicious death of Karima Baloch. However, Toronto police have said they don’t believe it could be a suspicious case.
But a question raised by some people is: How could Karima Baloch and Sajid Baloch meet the same fate? Their bodies were found near river side-one at Uppsala and another at Toronto. Karima’s friends said the 37-year old Baloch activist had been receiving threatening messages on social media and that her husband, Hammal Haider had been followed by an unknown person till recently. Toronto police are silence on the issue.
However, people close to Karima said she was one of the few top leaders who could expose the Pakistan government by releasing information from the ground. Her death has shocked her friends and followers, yet there are Baloch activists who said they would be relentless in their tryst to raise voice against extrajudicial killings and disappearances of Baloch people in Pakistan.
According to the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, as many as 1144 incidents of enforced disappearances between 1980 and 2019 took place in Pakistan. But Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a human rights organization, said that more than 6,000 people are still missing from Balochistan. If it is to be believed since 2009, 1400 people were abducted by security forces have been found dead, their bodies riddled with bullets and drill holes, or bearing signs of torture and mutilation.
In 2011, Pakistan set up a Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, with a mandate to trace the missing and hold those responsible for the disappearances to account. In September this year, a report by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) starkly highlighted that in nine years the commission had failed to hold a single perpetrator responsible. “Enforced disappearances not just continue to take place here, they have reached a level of brazenness inconceivable a few years ago,” the ICJ said in its damning report against Pakistan.
Pakistani watchers say such is the Pakistan Army’s power and influence sacrosanct that the Imran Khan government has still not criminalized, nor ratified the UN convention against enforced disappearances. Amid this, has not time come to take the Pakistan government to task? It is shedding crocodile tears on the Kashmir issue but is letting its marauding forces to strangulate the voices of dissent in Balochistan by undertaking killings, rapes and disappearances of the people. “We are looking at the international community for justice. After all, how long our people like Karima and Sajid will continue to be the victims of Pakistan’s torture and killings,” Hakim Baloch said, asking the Canadian government for a thorough and impartial probe into Karima Baloch’s suspicious death.