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Karima Baloch’s death turning point in Balochistan’s freedom struggle?

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New Delhi, Dec 29, 2020-
The mysterious death of exiled Baloch activist Karima Baloch, believed to be a case of murder by many, has not only triggered a week of protests from Toronto to Dhaka but also fueled the Baloch freedom movement at ground zero. Victims of state barbarism in all its forms, the Balochs now see the late Karima as their new icon even as the restive Balochistan province prepares for more tumultuous times ahead after the killing of seven Pakistani paramilitary troops in the last 48 hours.

A day after being reported missing, Karima’s body was pulled out of Lake Ontario in Canada’s Toronto last Sunday. However, instead of investigating the murder angle, the local police determined it to be a “non-criminal death” and said “no foul play” was suspected. Toronto Police’s decision to not investigate the matter has come in for huge criticism from Karima’s family, friends, fellow activists and human rights organisations who said that the 37-year-old had been receiving anonymous death threats after criticising the Justin Trudeau government for allowing Pakistani radical elements and army officials to settle down in the country.

While the Canadian Baloch diaspora has held candlelight vigils, massive rallies have been organised in various parts of Pakistan, including in Karachi, Dera Ghazi Khan and towns of Turbat, Panjgur, Khuzdar and Kharan in Balochistan.

The protests were not limited to Canada and Pakistan. Hundreds of Bangladeshis marched on the streets of Dhaka Sunday, demanding a thorough investigation into Karima’s death. The human chain and rally organised by Bangladesh Muktiyuddha Mancha at Dhaka University saw the participation of former Supreme Court judge Shamsuddin Chowdhury, renowned sculptor Rasha, poet Sardar Farooq and several other prominent activists from the country. The protest was held near the sculpture in Meherpur showing the execution of Bangladeshi intellectuals by the Pakistan Army in 1971.

“The killing of Karima Baloch, a woman human rights activist in exile in Canada, by the Pakistani ISI has proved that the Pakistani government is a sponsor of terrorism and militancy. The Muslim genocide in Balochistan must stop. We show solidarity with the freedom-loving people of Balochistan. I demand exemplary punishment for those involved in the killing of Karima Baloch,” former justice Chowdhury was quoted as saying by Daily Janakantha, a Bengali daily published from Dhaka.

Thousands are also signing online petitions like ‘Justice for Karima Baloch Collective’ launched by activists, journalists, academics, intellectuals and ‘concerned citizens of the world’ demanding justice for the slain activist who changed the face of the Baloch struggle for human rights by opening new doors of political leadership for young women.

Meanwhile, the Baloch Human Rights Council (BHRC) has, in a letter addressed to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, demanded the United Nations intervention and a proper investigation into the death of Karima.

The letter written by BHRC’s Executive President Dr. Naseer Dashti has drawn UN’s attention towards the violent response by the Pakistani state establishment to the egenuine demands’ of the Baloch people.

“Human rights violations by Pakistan are not limited to the socio-economic exploitation, destruction of the language, culture, enforced disappearances, and physical elimination of the Baloch in Balochistan but it appears that it has expanded its activities outside Pakistan and its secret services are believed to be behind the enforced disappearance and mysterious deaths of different Baloch activists who have taken refuge in different regions particularly in Europe and North America,” the BHRC said.

Intensifying their fight for justice, the community is going all out this time around to let the world know of the horrific crimes committed against them by the Pakistani agencies. A banner was put outside the Pakistan Embassy in Bern by Swiss Baloch activists accusing the Pakistani state of killing Karima and demanding ‘azadi’ for Balochistan.

“The recent death, or the suspected murder, of the Baloch political and human rights activist Karima Baloch is the most significant event in Balochistan’s political history since the killing of the former governor and the chief minister Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2006,” writes Malik Siraj Akbar, the head of Baluch Hal, a Baloch website in the United States.

“While Nawab Bugti’s killing intensified the armed movement in Balochistan, Ms. Baloch’s death is likely to open a chapter of fearlessness among Baloch activists who openly call for Balochistan’s independence,” he adds.

Only time will tell if this “fearlessness” leads to realization of dreams for the lakhs of Balochs or results in more bloodbath in 2021. (Agency)

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