37-year-old Karima Baloch, who was an active voice for Balochistan’s separation from Pakistan, was found dead under ‘mysterious’ circumstances in Canada early this week. Karima disappeared near Lake Ontario on Sunday and her dead body was found near Toronto’s downtown waterfront.
Karima was popularly known in India for sending a Rakshabandhan to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his support for the pro-Baloch movement in 2016, calling him Rakhi brother of Baloch-sisters.
Her mysterious death turned into a matter of concern. Hundreds of Balochistan activists are demanding for probe in this case. Human rights group Amnesty International took to Twitter and said Baloch’s death was shocking. The Human Rights Council of Balochistan too urged the Canadian government to look into the matter.
Who was Karima Baloch?
Activist Karima Merhab, who later came on to be identified with the Balochistan movement as Karima Baloch, was a vocal critic of the Pakistani government and had actively worked to highlight human rights violations perpetrated upon people in the occupied province of Balochistan. Karima had fled Pakistan to Canada in 2015, amid threats from the Pakistani government.
Baloch was the first woman chairperson of the Baloch Students Organisation Azad faction (BSO-A), which has been calling for the independence of Pakistan’s Baloch areas. In addition to a tower of other achievements, she was named as one of the world’s 100 most inspirational and influential women in 2016 by the BBC and was known as the ‘voice of the voiceless’.
Baloch would often highlight abductions, torture, forced disappearances and other human rights violations that people in Balochistan were being subjected to by the Pakistan government and the army in her social media accounts. She had highlighted how the legal system and religious groups in Pakistan would use state and social machinery to intentionally target women, particularly from vulnerable groups.
Karima’s mysterious death similar to that of another activist
Karima Baloch’s mysterious death was found to be similar to that of another pro-Baloch activist Sajid Hussain. Journalist and dissident Sajid Hussain took a train to Uppsala in Sweden on March 2 and then disappeared. In the course of time, his body also was found floating in a river.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the journalists’ organization, said his mysterious disappearance and subsequent death could have been organized by Pakistani intelligence agencies because of his work as a journalist.
Balochi activists have often accused shadowy security agents of kidnapping or “disappearing” thousands of people over the years, reports say.
And while the Canadian police have stated that there is no reason to suspect foul play, news of Karima’s death looking seemingly similar to that of Sajid Hussain should lead some to ask difficult questions.