The long march against the “Baloch Genocide,” which commenced in Turbat on December 6, faced severe violence upon its arrival in Islamabad, resulting in over 300 arrests and numerous injuries. The peaceful protest aims to bring attention to issues of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan.
The participants, having journeyed peacefully across Balochistan, were confronted by Islamabad Police with batons, tear gas, and water cannons as they staged a sit-in at Chongi No. 26 after being denied access to the Islamabad Press Club to join the Baloch Yakjehti Committee’s sit-in. The crackdown led to arrests and injuries among protesters, including protest leader Dr. Mahrang Baloch and journalist Somaiyah Hafeez Baloch, as well as scores of women and children.
Following her arrest, Dr. Mahrang Baloch posted on the social media platform ‘X’, stating, “I have been arrested by Islamabad Police along with several women and men…but the fascist state should remember that we will defeat you.” She emphasized the determination of the protesters, despite the arrests and violence.
The situation further intensified when participants of the BYC’s sit-in in front of the Islamabad Press Club, attempting to reach D-Chowk in protest against police violence against women and children at Chungi No. 26, encountered aggressive police action. This confrontation led to additional arrests and injuries from tear gas and baton charges, with chaotic scenes captured on social media platforms.
Sammi Deen Baloch, another leader from the march, shared her experiences on social media. She highlighted the state’s ‘brutal’ response, stating that when she returned from assisting an ill protester, they found roads closed and demonstrators arrested. Her reflections painted a picture of feeling alienated from the state’s constitution and laws.
Subsequently, Islamabad Police conducted early morning raids on Thursday, targeting Baloch students and activists. The Baloch Yakjehti Committee Islamabad stated that these raids were part of a broader strategy to suppress the voices of the Baloch people.
In a concerning development on Thursday night, Pakistani forces brought buses to transport detained Baloch women back to Quetta. However, the women refused, and the bus driver declined to transport them under coercion. Consequently, the authorities are now reportedly planning to send these women to Balochistan in police vans, treating them like prisoners.
The police crackdown has drawn sharp criticism from human rights organizations and activists. Amnesty International expressed concern over the excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, noting the detention and injury of dozens, including minors and the elderly, as a violation of their rights to freedom and protest.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the state’s violent response to the Baloch protesters in Islamabad and called for the immediate release of detained women. HRCP urged the government to address the protestors’ legitimate demands and uphold the Baloch people’s rights. The Balochistan Bar Council announced a boycott of judicial proceedings across Balochistan, condemning the use of force against a peaceful protest as a severe violation of human rights.
In response to the police violence, widespread protests erupted across Balochistan. Roads connecting Balochistan to Sindh and Punjab were blocked, disrupting traffic and signaling a surge in public outcry. Protests in Barkhan Rakhni led to the closure of the highway connecting Punjab to Balochistan, while similar blockades occurred on the Karachi-Quetta highway in Kalat and Sariab Road in Quetta. Rallies were also reported in numerous cities, including Turbat, Hub and Kharan.
These protests have been marked by strong condemnation of the state’s actions against peaceful demonstrators, particularly the elderly, women, and children. The Baloch Yakjehti Committee has announced a Balochistan-wide shutter-down strike on Friday and the blockade of highways in Balochistan as a direct response to the crackdown.