Grief, anger and a curfew on the burial of Pakistani activist Karima Baloch Pakistan

IHomecoming was something they never wanted. Five years ago, Karima Baloch fled Pakistan after risking her life as a leading human rights activist. On Sunday morning, at Karachi Airport, he was finally returned to his family.

But although she lay lifeless in a wooden coffin, her body was confiscated by Pakistani security officials for several hours. His hometown in Balochistan was then placed under paramilitary forces, a curfew was imposed in the region and mobile service was suspended, preventing everyone from coming and going for his funeral on Monday. ۔ It was clear that despite the deaths, Pakistan considered the Baloch a threat to national security.

The news of the death of 37-year-old Baloch, who was found floating in Lake Toronto, Toronto on December 21, shocked Pakistan and the world.

Women were prominent human rights activists in the troubled region of Balochistan, Pakistan. As a result of her struggle for the rights and freedom of the Baloch people, her family, friends and eventually her family had to live in safety in Pakistan and she fled to Canada in 2015, where she was later granted political asylum.

“Karima was a manifestation of women’s politics in Balochistan,” said Sadia Baloch, 21. “Because of this we can leave our home in a tribal and conservative society. We can protest in a male-dominated society. She was the first woman to challenge the oppressive state, outdated principles and tribalism. His legacy is with us.

Even after being deported from Pakistan, Baloch voice activism continued from Canada and in 2016 it was Reported by the BBC Among her 100 most influential and influential women. But according to his family, the threat to his life has never diminished. Although Toronto police have not ruled his death by drowning suspicious, his family and many others in Balochistan are adamant that he could be a victim of corruption, linked to high-level Baloch activity.

The family says there has been no increase in Baloch deaths and is pressuring Toronto police to investigate further. There were no witnesses to her death, and although she could not swim, the pier on the central island of Toronto, where she fell into the lake, has a high back railing to make it difficult to fall accidentally.

Sajid Hussain, after the death of a journalist, was the second Pakistani opponent to be killed in Balochistan this year as well, after facing death threats for his work to expose human rights abuses in Balochistan. I was forced to take refuge. In May, Hussein was found drowned in a river near his home. His family says they are not satisfied with the police’s decision to kill him accidentally.

Samir Mehrab, Baloch’s brother, who also lives in Canada, described the death threats he had recently received for his activities. “The police chief told us to accept that this is a criminal case, but we will not do that. In Pakistan and even in Canada, the police are not ready to consider the history or threats to Karma. We demand that the case be investigated, taking into account all the risks and history.

In a statement, Toronto Police said they still considered the death suspicious and could not provide further details.

Demonstrators took part in a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, December 24 after the bodies of Canadian human rights activist Karima Baloch were found.
Demonstrators took part in a protest in Karachi, Pakistan, December 24 after the bodies of Canadian human rights activist Karima Baloch were found. Photo: Rizwan Tabassum / AFP / Getty Images

Karima Baloch was born on March 8, 1983, in the city of Tampa in Balochistan, growing up in a province that has been embroiled in decades of conflict over a long-running nationalist insurgency. Here, thousands of people are abducted every year and “disappeared” by Pakistan’s security forces, without justice or accountability.

It was during his student years that he began to engage in Baloch nationalist politics and activism. Violating conservative principles, she became his first female chair Baloch Students Organization (BSO Azad), a political group supporting the rights of the Baloch people.

There, she also met her husband Himal Haider at the forefront of the BSO movement. Haider said the Baloch have permanently broken a new field for women in Balochistan and will travel to areas far from the Iran-Afghanistan border to persuade girls to get an education and join the political struggle. , Will sometimes travel home to win their parents.

“We could never have guessed until 2006, when Karima came along, that Baloch women would become part of politics, let alone one of them would become the chairperson of the organization,” Haider said.

“In a society where women were not allowed to expose or talk to men, Karima’s participation in the BSO has normalized the presence of women in public places in the tribal etiquette society.”

However, around 2015, she began receiving death threats for her outspokenness, and fearing for her life, she fled to Canada, where she sought political asylum. It was a long and difficult process that would take three years, and even though it was thousands of miles away from Pakistan, threats and tragedy still reached them.

In December 2017, while living in Toronto, Baloch received the message that until he returned to Pakistan, his uncle, schoolteacher Noor Muhammad, would be killed. He refused to return, and on January 2, 2018, just hours before his political asylum hearing, he received horrific news. Her uncle’s body was dumped in her hometown of Tampa.

“Karima was threatened with killing her uncle if she did not stop her activities in Canada,” Haider said. “It simply came to our notice then. But even these tactics never stopped Karima from speaking out against human rights abuses in Balochistan.

In the days after Baloch’s death in December, the streets of Balochistan’s cities and towns, and the city of Karachi, were filled with the good name of women protesters, chanting slogans against human rights abuses, calling themselves Karima and Demanded a full investigation into his death. . The protests were blacked out in the Pakistani media with hardly any coverage.

Pakistani security officials appear to have feared that similar crowds would fill the streets of Balochistan for his funeral. On Sunday, hundreds of people rallied in Karachi, condemning the city for not allowing them to offer funeral prayers. The army then closed all roads leading to Trump, where his last rites were performed on Monday. Baloch was immediately buried under tight security in the presence of family members and hundreds of local mourners.

“There is anger among women who have been missing for decades,” said a Baloch friend, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals.

Abid Mir, a political analyst and author in Balochistan, said the Baloch had introduced the women’s resistance movement into a conservative tribal society that had always been controlled by a powerful male elite. He said that her death had only started this new fire among the women of Balochistan. “Karima was not just a woman, but a symbol of change in an ideal society,” he said.

“Women were the backbenchers in our society, who were hidden, but now they are at the forefront of roads, activity and politics in Balochistan,” Mir said. “There are thousands of girls who want to be Karima. That’s what Karima started.”

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