On April 26 at almost 1 pm, a Baloch suicide bomber hit a minibus carrying Chinese nationals near Confucius Institute in University of Karachi after the explosion van was engulfed by blaze of fire, the following blast perished three Chinese language teachers and a Pakistani national. The responsibility was claimed by the outlawed Baloch Liberation Army’s Majeed Brigade unit.
Aftermath of the incident, a wave of fear in circles of Baloch students was felt that they might be subjected to more profiling, harassment and enforced disappearances. Their fear was not wrong. Soon after, a new wave of enforced disappearances began across the country, including many abductions from Karachi.
Similarly, on June 7, two students of Karachi University (KU), Doda Baloch and Gamshad Baloch, students of philosophy department, were reportedly picked up by LEAs from their room near Maskan Chowrangi in the jurisdiction of Mubina Town Police Station.
Right after the outbreak of the news, their families approached the above-mentioned police station for lodging the First Information Report (FIR). Police officials, in the response, stated that they were picked up by CTD. “You people may approach them.”
After two days, families of victims lodged a sit-in in front of Karachi Press Club (KPC). On Sunday 12 June, families took out a protesting rally towards the provincial assembly of Sindh. When their march reached the Arts Council, Chowrangi police barred them. Protesters – classmates of Doda and Gamshad Baloch, families, students and Awami Workers Party’s prominent leader Khurram Ali and his workers – faced police and with force, they removed barriers and managed to lodge their sit-in in front of Sindh legislature’s main gate.
After several rounds of negotiations with police officers, police received four names of Baloch missing persons’ families. They claimed that they had sent their names to CTD office for meeting; police officers, with a letter from CTD stating that tomorrow at 4pm (13 June) the listed four persons, Baji Amna Baloch, Sammi Deen, Shereen Baloch and Mahnaz Baloch, will be taken to CTD office.
Doubting on the intention of police, protesters, led by Amna Baloch, demanded surety on the condition if the police would not stay on its promise, which was most likely to happen, police officers signed the memorandum that SHO Aazum Aaram Baagh station and SHO Imtiaz Artillery Maidan Police station from KPC will escort the families and take them to CTD office. As a result, protesters ended their sit-in in front of the legislature building and returned to their camp at KPC.
When the scheduled time reached, police failed to implement their promise and expressed their inability to do so. The betrayal spread a shock among the families of forcibly disappeared students. On 13 June at 5pm, they again marched towards the assembly. The heavy police contingent barred them at the Arts Council Chowrangi. After massive resistance, once again they succeeded in removing the barriers and reached in front of the assembly gate at almost 7 pm.
Darkness spread, the vulnerable protesters grouped and created a chain by holding each other’s hands to avoid their possible arrest. Meanwhile, police fiercely attacked them, started dragging, beating and putting them in police mobiles. Loud shouts and outcries resounded and were heard in the air. Sammi Deen, the Deputy Secretary of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), among other females, was dragged and put into a police vehicle.
Soon, videos went viral on social media and became the top trends, and triggered a barrage of criticism over the brute action of Sindh police. Murtaza Wahab, current advisor to chief minister of Sindh, tweeted: “Police action on peaceful protesters was wrong & condemnable. PPP believes in this fundamental right & police must deal with such issues with empathy. Protesters may also consider confining their protest to the area around press club which has been reserved for peaceful protests.”
Prominent journalist and one of the hosts of Dawn’s talk show “Zara Hat Kay”, Mubashir Zaidi raised the issue timely and tweeted that “Highly condemnable….Sindh police dragging families of missing Baloch students on the instructions of Sindh government”.
Dawn news reported that at least 28 protesters, including human right’s activists, women, children and students, were severely beaten and arrested. Possibly, one injured protester was hospitalized.
Human right’s activists on social media questioned civilian supremacy and democracy, mentioning PPP chairman Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. They asked, “You are ever heard saying ‘democracy is the best revenge’. Is it democracy?” His statement had issued after suicide attack in KU was circulated, in which he was asking Baloch to struggle democratically and peacefully. The video was captioned that why did the Sindh police use excessive power on peaceful protesters?
The mounting pressure forced the authorities and later police released all of them. At midnight, the abducted students, Doda Baloch and Gamshad Baloch, were also released.
The release of protesters and forcibly disappeared students was applauded and appreciated by human rights activists and families of Baloch missing persons, but they questioned the government that how long would the illegal abductions continue. Is it in the interest of the country? Has not the police’s brute action deepened the grievances of Baloch?
Civil society, human rights organizations and political leaders again reiterated that through legislation, enforced disappearances should be criminalized. That is a possible way to bring down the decades old inhumane practice which has harmed and downgraded the national cohesion at a large scale.