FIR filed against Baloch students protesting in Islamabad

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The Islamabad police have filed a first information report (FIR) against the Baloch students peacefully protesting for the safe release of their peer Hafeez Baloch. The police have also booked parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar, activist Imaan Mazari and hundreds of Baloch students for sedition. As per the latest reports, the law enforcement agencies have reportedly encircled the protest camp to arrest the students and disperse the protest. 

According to the details, the Islamabad police has booked activist Imaan Mazari, MNA Mohsin Dawar and the Baloch students who are protesting for the safe release of Hafeez Baloch. The protestors have been charged with sedition, for blocking the roads, assaulting the police forces and chanting slogans against the Pakistani state. 

Hundreds of Baloch students took to the streets on Tuesday to protest for the safe release of Hafeez Baloch, an MPhil scholar in Quaid-e-Azam University, and Dileep Baloch, a student in the Islamia University in Bahawalpur. Hafeez was detained from Khuzdar and moved to an unknown location whereas Dileep was detained in Barkhan when he was on his way to his home for holidays. The latter was released a few hours after the protest, but the former is still missing. 

The Baloch students were carrying out a peace walk when they were encircled and assaulted by the Islamabad police. Videos and photos viral on social media show the police brutally cracking down on the students. The police also confiscated their mobile phones and the poles of the tent that was to be erected in front of the National Press Club. One student, Qasum Murad, was also detained from the protest site and released afterwards. 

Several students received heavy blows to their heads, faces and throughout their bodies. Photos of the students drenched in blood and plastered went viral on social media, drawing attention and sympathy from people throughout the country. Human rights activists, journalists, parliamentarians and student leaders condemned the violent crackdown on the peaceful protestors and asked the authorities to investigate the incident. 

The Baloch students eventually established the protest camp in front of the National Press Club. In the chilling, wet weather, the students are sitting in front of the press club, waiting for government representatives to approach them, but to no avail. Instead of negotiating with them, the government registered an FIR against them for alleged sedition. 

The news of the FIR drew widespread condemnation from activists and journalists on social media. Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “Strongly condemn cases filed against @mjdawar, @ImaanZHazir and scores of students for exercising democratic right of peaceful assembly, peaceful protest. Experience teaches that knee-jerk, arrogant & rash reaction costs the state more than it frightens people. Learn from past.” 

Former parliamentarian Bushra Gohar said: “Strongly condemn the false sedition case registered against @mjdawar @ImaanZHazir & #BalochStudents.  @ICT_Policedemand an explanation. #StopStateTerrorism #EndEnforcedDisappearances #ReleaseHafeezBaloch.”

Pashtun leader Afrasiab Khattak said that the Islamabad police violently cracked down on peaceful Baloch students and now the police have booked them for sedition. He said that “enforced disappearance” is a serious crime, and the perpetrators will be brought to justice one day like the Nazis.

Pashtun nationalist leader and parliamentarian Mohsin Dawar – who is also booked for sedition – said: “Instead of filing cases against the rouge elements involved in enforced disappearances, the state chooses to file fake cases against those who protest against enforced disappearances. Such as is the way of the martial law regime in Pakistan. We stand with the Baloch students.” 

Journalist Mubashir Zaidi said: “Shame on @ICT_Police for registering a treason case against lawyer  @ImaanZHazir for supporting #BalochStudents protest in Islamabad. Are we a banana republic? #IStandWithImaanMazari.”

Activists, journalists and several politicians visited the protest camp to express solidarity with the Baloch students. On Wednesday, journalist Hamid Mir visited the camp and showed sympathy to the students’ demands. Responding to a tweet where a social media user had called him “great” for visiting the camp, Mir said: “I am not great. These young Baloch students are great who came to Islamabad for education but they are facing harassment. Instead of turning against the state they have adopted a peaceful way of protest on the illegal arrest of a fellow student.”

Parliamentarians Mohsin Dawar, Afrasiab Khattak, Farhatullah Babar Bushra Gohar also visited the camp and expressed solidarity with the Baloch students. Journalist Matiullah Jan also paid a visit to the protest camp.


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