Dr. Zaheer Baloch, a PhD student at Comsats University, has been released by the Islamabad police after a five-day-long disappearance. Despite arresting him during a protest against the Islamabad police’s refusal to allow participants of the “Long March Against Baloch Genocide” to enter Islamabad, the police initially denied knowledge of his whereabouts.
However, days later, the police admitted in the Islamabad High Court that Dr. Baloch was being held in Adiala jail. He was released on Thursday night. The Baloch Yakjehti Committee announced his release on social media, noting that 34 other students remain missing.
Dr. Mahrang Baloch, who is leading the ongoing protest for the safe release of Baloch missing persons and an end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan, addressed the protest gathering in Islamabad with Dr. Zaheer Baloch by her side.
She stated, “In the past several days, we heard from the Islamabad police that Zaheer Baloch was not in their custody. However, he was detained illegally for five days without being presented in front of a court or allowed the right to a lawyer.”
Dr. Mahrang Baloch further clarified, “We launched this movement against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan. Some elements are spreading a false narrative that we don’t want to negotiate with the authorities. That is untrue. We are ready for negotiation, but we will not be defrauded this time.”
She added that the movement is for the people of Balochistan, and more people are joining every day. However, the police and relevant authorities have resorted to violence and underhanded tactics to quell the march, including stealing their loudspeakers in the dead of the night.
Speaking to the gathering, Dr. Zaheer Baloch said that the protest was peaceful and it was communicated to the police that it would remain so. Despite this, the police baton-charged the peaceful protestors. He argued, “Instead of registering an FIR against us, they should have registered an FIR against the Islamabad police. The police should have been presented in the court, not the protestors.”
Recalling his time in jail, Dr. Zaheer Baloch described the inhumane conditions, “Over 45 people were crammed into one small room. We could not stand, sit, or lie down, let alone sleep. We were dehumanized and an FIR was registered against us as they saw fit, without informing us or any of our friends. We were not allowed to contact our lawyers or our families.”
He noted that many of the 34 students who are still missing have ongoing exams, and some will have exams in the next few days. Their careers are being jeopardized because they are in prison, and the courts are doing nothing to protect these students.
Dr. Zaheer further revealed that the investigation officer tried to assault him. He said that he was taken to the session court where he pleaded to the police to allow him to obtain legal representation, but he was denied this right.