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Friday, June 9, 2023

Vocal Baloch dissident Karima Baloch, living as a refugee in Canada, found dead

Balochistan human rights activist and refugee Karima Baloch has been found dead in Toronto, Canada. according to Balochistan Post. She had gone missing on Sunday and her family has now confirmed that she has been found dead.

Karima was an outspoken critic of the persecution of the Baloch people by Pakistan, and the plundering of natural resources like oil, gas, minerals from Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province (almost half its landmass) which also has immense geo-strategic importance. The port of Gwadar being developed as part of the controversial CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) project falls in Balochistan.

Baloch activists suspect the Pakistani state hand in Karima’s murder, especially the notorious ISI spy agency which is the creator and benefactor of most Islamic terrorist groups plaguing the subcontinent.

In fact, just days before her sudden disappearance and death, Karima had tweeted an article about the frequent kidnap, torture of murder of human rights activists and journalists in Pakistan.

Many Pakistani dissidents living in exile in the West, like Karima, are on the hit list of Pakistani military and deep state. In May, Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain, editor of Balochistan Times News website, who was living in exile in Sweden was found dead near the city of Uppsala. Sajid had fled Pakistan in 2012 after receiving threats over his reporting on organised crime, forced disappearances and human rights violations in Balochistan.

Hussain’s death came a month after Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani blogger living in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, was attacked and threatened outside his Rotterdam home by two individuals whose methods “fit the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies,” as per Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Karima Baloch

As per RSF, a list of Pakistani dissidents who are now refugees in other countries has been circulating within the ISI since late 2019. Tarek Fatah, a Pakistani Canadian journalist and a trenchant critic of the mullah-military nexus that controls Pakistan, has claimed that he is on an ISI ‘kill list’ of 84 Pakistan-born exiles.

The culture of assassinations and casual brutality against anyone deemed ‘enemy of the state’ is indoctrinated deep within the Pakistan military, which is responsible for the genocide of 3 million Bengalis (around 80% of whom were Hindus) during the 1971 Bangladesh war of independence. Listen to what ex-Pakistan President and military dictator Gen. Pervez Musharraf, architect of the Kargil war, let slip during an interview:

Many human rights activists are questioning Canadian PM Justin Trudeau on why his government failed to safeguard Karima Baloch despite the clear threat to her life. ISI networks are believed to have penetrated deep into Canada’s Muslim immigrant population, and along with Jamaat-e-Islami linked groups like ICNA (Islamic Circle of North America) are pushing Pakistani state agenda in Canada such as targeting Pakistani activists living in exile and promoting the Khalistan movement. In fact, several ministers in Trudeau’s have shown pro-Khalistan leanings, a development which even Canadian think tanks have called dangerous for the country.

Balochistan was an independent sovereign state ruled by the Khan of Kalat after the British left, and was invaded by Pakistan in 1948. Ever since then, insurgencies have been raging in the troubled province, the latest of which started in 2006 under 80-year-old Bugti tribal chief Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti.

According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a human rights organisation, more than 6,000 people are still missing from Balochistan. Since 2009, 1,400 people who were abducted by security forces have been found dead, their bodies riddled with bullets and drill holes, or bearing signs of torture and mutilation.

But it is not just the Baloch who are suffering – extrajudicial abductions and enforced disappearances by shadowy military agencies, usually ISI, have been a feature of life in Pakistan for decades. The disappearances are used as a tool of terror to silence not just the victim but the wider community. Religious and ethnic minorities (Pakhtuns, Shia, Sindhi nationalists etc) bear the brunt of this persecution, but even Sunni Muslim deemed critical of the government and military are not safe.

In March, Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the owner of the country’s largest media entity Jang Group, which runs the largest Urdu newspaper in Pakistan and also owns Geo TV and The News, an English language newspaper, was detained over a three decades old accusation of illegal land allotment. He was held for over 200 days in jail, before finally getting bail last month.

Observers say the culture of impunity with which ISI and other law enforcement agencies operate, and media censorship have worsened since Imran Khan came to power in 2018. Critics say Khan’s government is propped by the country’s all-powerful military and that Khan, the judiciary and the military are working together to preserve their power and stamp out dissent.

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