The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan reportedly detained a Baloch woman, Mahal Baloch, from Quetta’s satellite town over allegations that she is a suicide bomber and a militant for the Balochistan Liberation Front, a charge that the group has denied. However, Mahal’s family and human rights groups, activists, and organizations claim that she is innocent and that the CTD has a history of framing innocent people as militants and killing them in fake encounters. Her alleged “enforced disappearance” has refreshed last year’s memories when the CTD was accused of killing ten Baloch missing persons in a fake encounter in Ziarat.
Mahal Baloch’s “enforced disappearance” has engendered a massive outcry. Political workers, student leaders, and human rights groups have condemned the incident and chastised the Pakistani security forces for employing “barbaric” and “inhumane” tactics to crush dissent. Activists have also run trends on social media and carried out protests for the safe recovery of Mahal Baloch.
What Does The CTD Say?
The Counter-Terrorism Department of Pakistan has issued a media statement in response to the detention of Mahal Baloch, saying that they had received an intelligence tip-off that she was planning to carry out a suicide attack at a “sensitive” location in Quetta.
According to the First Information Report (FIR) filed against Mahal Baloch at CTD station Quetta, she was found and apprehended near a public park in Satellite Town. She was reportedly carrying a laptop bag that contained a suicide vest. Furthermore, the CTD officials found her CNIC and Rs1,500 from her person.
Balochistan Home Minister Zia Langove said the intelligence agencies had informed the government of possible security threats. The government directed the security forces to act promptly and counter the threat.
What Does The BLF Say?
The Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) issued a media statement clarifying that Mahal Baloch is not affiliated with the group. The group condemned her “enforced disappearance” and said that she is being framed on false charges.
The group said that Mahal Baloch hails from the Gomazi area of Balochistan’s district of Kech. She is the daughter-in-law of eminent Baloch nationalist late Waja Muhammad Hussain and the sister-in-law of Bibi Gul Baloch, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Balochistan. The BLF said that the latter has been vocal about the human rights violations in Balochistan. The Pakistani security forces detained Mahal Baloch to pressurize her family into silence, the group said.
BLF further said that the security forces tried to threaten her family into silence. Mahal Baloch, mother of two, and her family were forced to move to Quetta after the security forces burnt their house down in 2018.
The group said that the Pakistanis security forces are unable to apprehend actual BLF fighters and instead resort to detaining innocent civilians and framing them as militants. They do this to show the world that they are taking action against the raging insurgency in Balochistan, the group said.
Human rights organizations have already raised concerns about the treatment of Mahal Baloch, and the BLF’s statement only adds to the urgency of the situation. The Pakistani government must take swift action to investigate these allegations and ensure that Mahal Baloch is given a fair trial with due process of law, rights groups demanded.
What Does Her Family Say?
According to her family members, Mahal Baloch was not arrested from the park, as the CTD claims, but from her home along with four others, including her two kids. Bibi Gul Baloch, Mahal’s sister-in-law, told BBC Urdu that the security forces surrounded her house and beat up the watchman when he tried to stop them.
She said that the four detainees were released the next day. They were blindfolded and left far from the city to make the long journey back home. Mahal remains in CTD custody, Bibi Gul added.
Bibi Gul Baloch also refuted CTD’s claims, saying that Mahal Baloch was not affiliated with any “pro-independence” organization, nor was she a suicide bomber.
Speaking at the protest in Quetta, Mahal’s mother-in-law said that the security forces inflicted physical torture on her before detaining her. She said they locked her up in a separate room and beat her. She said that we could hear her screams. She appealed to the authorities to have mercy on Mahal’s two kids and set her free.
The news of Mahal Baloch’s “enforced disappearance” spread like wildfire on social media, engendering a massive public outcry. Political workers, human rights groups, and activists condemned the incident and called on the authorities to safely release Mahal Baloch.
Taking to Twitter, activist, and lawyer Emaan Zainab Mazari condemned Mahal’s “enforced disappearance” and said that Asif Ghafoor, the incumbent Quetta Corps Commander, wants to increase the number of militants in Balochistan.
She went on to say that the intelligence agencies and the security forces would have to pay a huge price for targeting women. She also recalled the Fall of Dhaka, saying that the Pakistani military raped thousands of Bengali women without remorse. To this day, we hang our heads in shame for those war crimes, she said. Mazari further stated that detaining and torturing innocent civilians only fuels hatred against the Pakistani army and incentivizes people to join the “pro-independence” groups.
The Balochistan National Party Mengal condemned Mahal Baloch’s “enforced disappearance” in a media statement and said that it would hold a hunger strike in Quetta on February 25. The party said that the “abduction” of an innocent human is a gross human rights violation and part of a well-thought-out plan to worsen the situation in Balochistan.
The “enforced disappearance” of Mahal Baloch sparked outrage and protests in the city of Turbat, as people took to the streets demanding her immediate release. Protesters marched through the streets, chanting slogans against the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and calling for justice. The demonstrators expressed their frustration with the government and security forces, accusing them of unlawfully detaining innocent civilians and framing them as militants. The situation in Turbat remains tense as the protests continue.
According to analysts, activists, and Baloch nationalists: The Law Enforcement Forces in Pakistan are targeting Baloch women who are actively participating and leading political campaigns to derail their progress. Balochistan has a long history of political conflict, and women have played a key role in the struggle for Baloch independence. However, the Pakistani government has been reluctant to acknowledge this fact and has instead targeted women to undermine their political activism. Activists have pointed out that this strategy is not only a violation of human rights, but it is also counterproductive, as it only serves to further inflame tensions in the region. Baloch nationalists have called for an end to this practice and for greater recognition of the role that Baloch women play in shaping the future of their community.
The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of Pakistan has been accused of engaging in extrajudicial killings and staging fake encounters in the past. Therefore, the detention of Mahal Baloch, based solely on intelligence tip-off and without solid evidence, raises serious concerns about the transparency and fairness of the CTD’s operations. Such actions not only violate the fundamental human rights of innocent people but also contribute to further destabilization of the already volatile region. The authorities and human rights groups must take notice of the situation and ensure that Mahal Baloch is given a fair trial and that her fundamental human rights are protected. It is imperative that justice is served while adhering to due process of law, and that the security forces are held accountable for their actions.