Punjab University in Lahore finds itself at the epicenter of a mounting controversy following the alleged forced disappearance of Fareed Baloch, a Master’s student at the institution.
The incident ignited widespread protests and drawn condemnation from human rights advocates, student bodies, and Baloch nationalists. Amidst a crescendo of public outcry, Fareed Baloch has since surfaced in police custody.
On Friday, a video surfaced on social media that purportedly depicted the abduction of Fareed Baloch. An 8th semester BS Education student and member of the Baloch Council of PU, Fareed was allegedly taken while exiting the university through its main entrance.
This video spurred a myriad of reactions across digital platforms. Numerous groups, encompassing human rights organizations and student bodies, demanded clarification and urged for his swift release.
In a swift response to escalating public pressure, sources confirmed that on Saturday Fareed Baloch had been handed over to Lahore police. He is currently detained at the Garden Town police station.
Representatives from the Baloch Council visited the Garden Town police station for further details but were reportedly not provided with specific reasons for the detention or allowed to speak with Mr. Baloch.
While addressing the media, Baloch Council members conveyed their apprehension about potential false charges against Fareed, particularly since no official law enforcement statement clarified the circumstances of his arrest.
By Saturday, Punjab police filed a case against Fareed Baloch, attributing him to drug-related activities, and announced that legal proceedings would ensue.
The incident sparked strong reactions from various quarters. Baloch organizations, students, and human rights groups expressed their outrage on social media, condemning the abduction.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) voiced its concerns over escalating reports of Pashtun and Baloch students being subjected to harassment and intimidation by law enforcement officials in Lahore universities. The commission highlighted racial profiling of students as an alarming trend and called for its immediate cessation.
Dr. Malik Baloch, president of the National Party and former Chief Minister of Balochistan, resonated with the HRCP’s sentiments. Drawing attention to the broader context, he called for Fareed Baloch’s immediate release and underscored the challenges Baloch students encounter in Punjab.
Human rights activist MahRang Baloch remarked, “The fate of Baloch students remains unchanged in this state. Fareed Baloch, a student at Punjab University, is tortured and forcefully taken away. His resistance against the abductees goes beyond terror.”
Baloch Students Action Committee (BSAC) posted on the social media platform X, stating, “We strongly condemn the violent beating, dragging, and kidnapping of student Fareed Baloch from the University of Punjab. The forced disappearance of Baloch students in educational institutions is deeply concerning. We demand his immediate release.”
Progressive Students’ Collective voiced its stance on social media, asserting, “PSC strongly condemns the abduction of Fareed Baloch from Punjab University. Such acts disrupt the pursuit of education and are unacceptable.”
Claims of Systemic Harassment: A Deepening Concern
The recent alleged abduction of Fareed Baloch from Punjab University has intensified concerns regarding the treatment of Baloch students in Punjab universities.
Close associates and class fellows of Fareed Baloch hint at the possible involvement of Pakistani intelligence agencies in his alleged abduction. They suggest that the robust public response might have compelled these entities to shift Fareed to formal police custody.
Regrettably, this isn’t an isolated event. Over time, various reports highlight a perceived pattern of racial profiling and targeted harassment of Baloch students in Punjab.
Notably, incidents involving the forced disappearance of Beeberg Imdad Baloch of Punjab University and Feroz Baloch from Arid University Rawalpindi mirror the circumstances surrounding Fareed’s case.
Moreover, Baloch and Pashtun students at the University of Gujrat allege they’ve been approached by unknown individuals who inspect their phones and ask personal questions. There have also been reports from Punjab University of Baloch students being detained for wearing their traditional attire.
In light of these events, Baloch student organizations have issued a stern warning to the Pakistani police and security agencies. They demand an end to the racial profiling of students who come to Punjab for education. They further state that if the current trend continues, Baloch students will resort to significant protests.
The alleged abduction and subsequent appearance of Fareed Baloch in police custody underscores the intricate dynamics at play between the Baloch and the wider state apparatus. Such incidents not only spark immediate concerns for student safety but also hint at broader systemic issues.
The recurring narratives of racial profiling, harassments and alleged abductions have the potential to erode the trust that is vital for cohesive academic functioning. If unaddressed, and should such events deter Baloch students from seeking education in Punjab or elsewhere, the ramifications could reverberate far beyond academic corridors. It is, therefore, a collective imperative for all parties involved to foster open dialogue, uphold the rule of law, and ensure a safe environment for all students, regardless of their ethnic or regional affiliations.