The death of a prominent Baloch activist Karima Baloch has sparked anger and rage and engendered a climate of gloom and resentment throughout Balochistan. Fellow activists, journalists, social workers and prominent politicians have paid their tributes to Karima Baloch and are urging the Canadian government to launch a thorough inquiry on her death and bring the culprits to justice.
Many have described her as a courageous, far-sighted and empathetic woman who rose above all the odds and made a name for herself with her far-reaching political activism in Balochistan and beyond.
Amnesty International described her death as “deeply shocking” and appealed that it must be “immediately and effectively investigated.”
“The perpetrators must be brought to justice without recourse to the death penalty.”
Mohsin Dawar, leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement and Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, condemned the “murder” of Karima Baloch. Taking to Twitter, the lawmaker describes the former BSO-Azad chairperson as a “courageous and upright daughter of the Baloch soil.”
“Strongly condemn the murder of #KarimaBaloch. She was a courageous and upright daughter of the Baloch soil and she fought for the rights of her people & was murdered for that. Also, grant of asylum shouldn’t just be about visa issuance, but actual protection of the asylum seeker”, Dawar tweeted.
Reacting to Miss Baloch’s death, Michael Chong, Member of the Canadian House of Commons, said that a “thorough investigation is needed to ensure no foul play was involved.”
“Very disturbing if political assassinations are taking place on Canadian soil.”
Canadian writer and journalist Tarek Fateh said that Karima Baloch was “drowned in Toronto” by #Balochistan’s enemies to silence her, not knowing that her speeches will live forever.”
Reacting to Miss Baloch’s death, historian and author Ammar Ali Jan said that: “Baloch activists are naturally suspicious because they have seen so much pain. My own anger is directed at the state for hounding activists inside Pakistan and for creating conditions in which fear and suspicion is so pervasive.”
In another tweet, he said that activists like Karima Baloch are “forced into exile by a state that is willing to massacre citizens to pursue its interests.”
“We will become victims of tyranny if we refuse to show solidarity with the Baloch”, he wrote.
A promenant Baloch politician, head of the Balochistan National Party and member of parliament, Akhtar Mengal stated in a tweet: “Shocked to hear about the passing of Karima Baloch. May Allah give her the highest place in jannah. My condolences with the family at this difficult time. I hope Canadian authorities conduct and immediate and effective investigation. #KarimaBaloch”
Baloch student activist Mahrang Baloch condemned the “killing” of Karima Baloch in a series of tweets.
“It’s hard to believe. We lost her ,She gave her life in resistance but stood firm for the National cause.Our land has given birth to the courageous defenders that will never hesitate from any kind of sacrifice #KarimaBaloch you made History with your struggle”, she wrote in one tweet.
Sociologist Nida Kirmani also raised voice against the alleged killing of Karima Baloch on social media. She urged the Canadian government to take notice of the incident. She said that Miss Baloch had travelled to Canada for safety, “it was the Canadian government’s responsibility to provide this.”
Bushra Gohar, a former member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and a PTM activist, urged the Canadian government — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau specifically — to probe the disappearance and subsequent death of Karima Baloch.
The Baloch Yakjehti Committee announced in a statement that it will carry out protests in Balochistan and beyond against the “brutal murder” of Karima Baloch. The Committee said that it will launch protest rallies in Quetta and Hub Chowki on Wednesday, then in Karachi and Dera Ghazi Khan and throughout Balochistan.
The Committee also said that it will hold an absentee funeral prayer for Miss Baloch.
A renowned Bollywood actress, Kangna Ranaut mentioned Canadian Premier in a tweet saying “What a shameful day …. @JustinTrudeau you are answerable for this …”
A foreigner human rights activist Peter Tatchell expressed his views on twitter: “Renowned exiled Baloch activist @KarimaBaloch found dead in Toronto. BBC named her one of world’s 100 most influential women. Hoping the @TorontoPolice will thoroughly investigate this.”
Karima’s husband and also an exiled activist, Hammal Haider while talking to the media said “I can’t believe that it’s an act of suicide. She was a strong lady and she left home in a good mood. We can’t rule out foul play as she has been under threats.”
Hammal Haider said that he had also received threats a month ago on social media over raising the issue of human rights violations and military operations in Balochistan by Pakistan.
Another exiled activist in Canada, Lateef Johar while talking to the Guardian said “I don’t think this is an accident or an act of suicide. We all feel threatened here. Even after the killing of Sajid Hussain I fear when I find myself in a dark street.”
“The police have not provided any further details. They have not told us the cause of death nor have they returned the body of Karima,” Johar said.
Zafar Baloch, the president of Baloch Human Rights Council Canada said that BHRC rejects finding of the Toronto Police that Karima Baloch killed herself. She did not escape death in Pakistan to come to Canada and commit suicide. BHRC demands an independent enquiry into her death that excludes any Pakistani-Canadian police.
Ms Baloch’s sister told the BBC Urdu service on Tuesday that her death was “not only a tragedy for the family, but also for the Baloch national movement”.
“She didn’t go abroad because she wanted to, but because… open activism in Pakistan had become impossible,” Mahganj Baloch said.
Pakistani High Commissioner in Canadian capital of Ottawa said in a press release that Pakistan High Commissioner has approached the Canadian authorities to find out the cause of Karima Baloch’s death and an official report in this regard is awaited.
It is to mention that the Baloch Students Organisation Azad (BSO-A), a student organisation, on platfrom of which Karima Baloch started her struggle for the rights was nominated as a terrorist organisation and banned by Pakistani authorities in 2013.
Who was Karima Baloch?
Karima Baloch was a dissident Baloch political and human rights activist who was living in exile in Canada. She fled Pakistan in 2015 after her activism in Balochistan had her being followed and threatened by the Pakistani authorities and was granted asylum in Canada a year later in 2016.
The Toronto police issued an appeal after she went missing on Sunday afternoon and later confirmed that her dead body has been found.
The first female chairperson of Baloch Student Organization Azad, Karima Baloch was advocating for the rights of the inhabitants of Balochistan, home to a long-running insurgency movement.
Her journey with BSO began in 2006 — a tumultuous year in the political history of Balochistan owing to the death of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti by the Musharraf regime. Miss Baloch was then a student at Atta Shad Degree College in Turbat.
Due to her active participation, she soon rose to prominence within the organization. Rising against all the odds, she became the first female chairperson of BSO-Azad in 2014 after it’s former leader Zahid Baloch was allegedly ‘abducted’ by the Pakistani forces. Her family were also targeted for her activism.
She was listed by BBC as one of the 100 most influential and inspirational women in 2016 for her work in human rights.
“When I was growing up, I never thought of becoming a politician”, Miss Baloch said in a 2016 interview. She said that the political situation in Balochistan pushed her into politics.
“I was more interested in arts and psychology. It is obvious that when you are living in a society whose sufferings you see all around you on a daily basis, then you begin to question why is this happening to me and my people?”, She said.
Karima Baloch was born in Balochistan’s Tump area in a politically active family that had produced prominent nationalist figures like Wahid Qambar and late Dr. Khalid Baloch. She had recently joined Baloch National Movement and was studying at Toronto University.
Karima Baloch continued raising her voice against human rights abuses in Balochistan and across Pakistan. She regularly spoke at conferences, addressed the media and attended protest rallies in Canada and Europe.
Karima Baloch was not the only Baloch dissident targeted overseas. In a similar incident earlier this year, Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain went missing in Sweden under mysterious circumstances. His dead body was found a month later in a river in Uppsala.
Mr Hussain was covering the issues of human rights violations in the region by the Pakistan state and drug trafficking in the region which involves Pakistan Army and members of the parliament. He had sought asylum after threats to his life in Pakistan.