Pakistan

Baloch Marchers Freed After Court and Political Intervention

The Islamabad police have released all the Baloch marchers who were arrested during a peaceful protest against the “enforced disappearances” of their loved ones in the federal capital last week.

The police said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that they had freed 290 protesters from jails and police custody after the court approved their bail and a cabinet committee and the Balochistan governor ordered their release.

The Baloch marchers, mostly women and children, had travelled from Turbat to Islamabad on foot to demand the recovery of their missing relatives, who they allege have been abducted by the state agencies.

They had reached the capital on December 6 and staged a sit-in in front of the National Press Club. However, on Wednesday night, the police used batons, tear gas and water cannons to disperse them and detained hundreds of them, including women and minors.

The police action sparked widespread outrage and condemnation from human rights groups, political parties, civil society and the media, who denounced it as a violation of the constitutional right to peaceful protest and expression.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) also took notice of the matter and ordered the police to let the protesters exercise their right to protest. The court also directed the authorities to produce the detained protesters before it and explain the reasons for their arrest.

The Baloch marchers refused to end their sit-in until all their companions were released and the cases against them were withdrawn. They also gave a three-day ultimatum to the government to meet their demands.

The Balochistan governor, Abdul Wali Kakar, also intervened in the matter and asked the federal government to release the protesters and address their grievances.

Following the political pressure and the court orders, the Islamabad police announced that they had released all the Baloch marchers and requested their relatives to contact them for information and assistance.

However, the Baloch Yakjahti Committee, which organised the long march, said that their protest sit-in would continue until their missing relatives were recovered and the issue of enforced disappearances was resolved.

The committee also thanked the people of Pakistan, the media, the civil society and the political parties for their support and solidarity with their cause.

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