Baloch Protesters Give Govt 3-Day Ultimatum To Accept Demands

Baloch protesters put forth two demands, including withdrawing FIRs and releasing over 100 Baloch students and protesters

Baloch Protesters Give Govt 3-Day Ultimatum To Accept Demands

Baloch protesters who marched to the federal capital from Turbat in Balochistan on Saturday gave the government a three-day ultimatum to quash the FIRs registered against the protesters and the immediate release of Baloch missing persons, including students detained from Islamabad.

This was stated by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) in a statement issued to journalists on Saturday.

The five-page statement reads that the government will have three days to comply with their demands. Should it fail to do so, the protesters will be compelled to take harsh steps. They further said that their movement will not adopt the form of an indefinite sit-in at the National Press Club.

"Till our demands are met, we are persistent and will resist politically till last breath."

The statement noted that their protests began after Balach Mola Bakhsh was "abducted" in front of his family on October 29, 2023. A day later, he was presented by the Counter Terrorism Department before a sessions court in Turbat to obtain a 10-day physical remand. But two days later, he was killed in an alleged staged encounter along with three other men who had been forcibly disappeared.

When the matter came into public knowledge, a protest was staged in Turbat. A sit-in continued in Turbat for two weeks. Earlier this month, on December 6, the movement decided to march on to the provincial capital of Quetta. After passing through various areas of Balochistan, the marchers reached Quetta and staged a sit-in for four days at Sarab Mill. 

The protesters then announced plans to march towards the federal capital of Islamabad. On the way, the protesters claimed they were subjected to violence from local police and administration in Dera Ghazi Khan. 

"Punjab police baton-charged peaceful demonstrators and arrested many of the females preparing for the welcome of the march. Four Baloch activists were abducted by the DG Khan police in the name of a so-called agreement," the protesters stated. 

After large demonstrations in Dera Ghazi Khan, the supporters were released.

To further stop the march, the protesters claimed that the administration threatened local transporters with consequences if they ferried the protesters. "After dealing with the administration, the transport issue became resolved," the protesters said, adding that the resolution did not come before they threatened to continue their journey on foot.

The rally then moved to Taunsa Sharif and eventually arrived in the federal capital earlier in the week. They were stopped at the edge of the city's remits at the toll plaza and then at Chungi No 26. 

The protesters claimed that the police used harsh words and abuses to provoke the protesters into a violent reaction. When that failed, the protesters claimed that the police resorted to the use of water cannons and charged at them with batons. At the same time, a protest underway outside the press club was dispersed using tear gas. 

The protesters claimed that the police "forcibly wanted to deport the families of long marchers."

They added that around 350 Baloch students and families were arrested in Islamabad by the police. Of these, 33 students were granted bail, but over 250 remain in jail. 

Of these, they claimed, more than 100 have not been presented before a court in violation of the law.

They vowed to continue their protest until all the participants of the march, students and activists are released.

Charter of demands

The BYC issued a charter of demands with five major demands:

1. A fact-finding mission headed by the United Nations Working Group should be sent to Balochistan for a detailed investigation regarding human rights violations in Balochistan.

2. CTD Balochistan shall accept that it has killed Balach Mola Baksh in a staged fake encounter.

3. All forcibly disappeared Baloch people, especially those whose families are present in this sit-in, should be immediately released.

4. CTD and death squads supported by state agencies must be eliminated. While an announcement letter must be issued.

5. Confess to kill enforcedly disappeared persons in fake encounters. For this, a letter of acknowledgement should be issued by the Ministry of Interior, and a press conference should be held, which should include the names of all the victims. And with that, all fake FIRS against peaceful protestors should be stopped.

BYC said that these demands will persist with the movement.

However, it also issued a three-day ultimatum to state for the withdrawal of FIRs registered against peaceful protestors and the release of over 100 Baloch students, whose status is still missing and are arrested by the Islamabad Police during a crackdown against peaceful students in the federal capital.

"If the state does not produce the missing students from Islamabad and does not withdraw FIRs against peaceful protesters, then the long march will be compelled to take hash steps and the state and its administration shall be responsible for this," it added.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain