Pakistan: Protests held by Baloch students in response to the recent rise in enforced disappearances across the country
Pakistan and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
On Monday, March 21, thousands of Baloch students from various Pakistani universities organised protests and hunger strikes, and boycotted classes, calling for an end to enforced disappearances of Baloch students across the country (Peoples Dispatch, 2022a; Peoples Dispatch, 2022b, The Balochistan Post, 2022).
The Baloch Students Council Islamabad has particularly been active in mobilising students and organising the protests (Peoples Dispatch, 2022a). Many student associations in Balochistan, like those at Lasbela University, Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, and the University of Balochistan, have also joined the marches (Peoples Dispatch, 2022a).
Participants of the protests have denounced the ill-treatment of Baloch students by the state, more precisely Pakistani secret services. The reason why many Baloch students have been targeted by law enforcement agents in the country is essentially related to the growing independence movement in Balochistan, the southwestern province in Pakistan (Baloch, 2022).In general, Balochistan is reported to be the Pakistani province in which the number of enforced disappearances has been highest (Amnesty International, 2017). It has been found that in Pakistan, there are at least 5,000 Balochs that have gone missing (The Friday Times, 2022).
Baloch students have been highly involved when it comes to the movement, and thus, many of them have been abducted or murdered by Pakistani secret services over the last few years (Asian News International, 2021; Baloch, 2022).
During the protests, students have especially condemned the abduction of Hafeez Baloch, a student of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, who was kidnapped by Pakistani intelligence agents on February 8, 2022 (Krishnankutty, 2022). Students participating in the demonstrations also ran the campaigns like #ReleaseHafeezBaloch and #StopHarassingBalochStudents, which were among the top trending topics in social media in Pakistan on Monday (Peoples Dispatch, 2022a; The Balochistan Post, 2022).
Sources and further reading:
Asian News International. (2021, November 15). Baloch Martyrs' Day: Protest in Paris against enforced disappearances by Pak Army. Asian News International. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/baloch-martyrs-day-protest-in-paris-against-enforced-disappearances-by-pak-army20211115094831/
Baloch, R. (2022, March, 14). Why victim families don’t report cases of ‘Enforced Disappearance’ in Balochistan?. News Intervention. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://www.newsintervention.com/why-victim-families-dont-report-cases-of-enforced-disappearance-in-balochistan/
Krishnankutty, P. (2022, February 10). Pakistan is making Baloch intellectuals disappear one by one. This time, an MPhil student. The Print. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://theprint.in/go-to-pakistan/pakistan-is-making-baloch-intellectuals-disappear-one-by-one-this-time-an-mphil-student/826787/
Peoples Dispatch. (2022a, March 23). Baloch students boycott classes to protest enforced disappearances in Pakistan. Peoples Dispatch. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://peoplesdispatch.org/2022/03/23/baloch-students-boycott-classes-to-protest-enforced-disappearances-in-pakistan/
Peoples Dispatch. (2022b, March 23). Pakistani students intensify protest seeking safe return of missing research scholar. Peoples Dispatch. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://peoplesdispatch.org/2022/03/16/pakistani-students-intensify-protest-seeking-safe-return-of-missing-research-scholar/
The Balochistan Post. (2022, March 22). Baloch students across Pakistan boycott classes in protest. The Balochistan Post. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://thebalochistanpost.net/2022/03/baloch-students-across-pakistan-boycott-classes-in-protest/
The Friday Times. (2022, March 22). Baloch Students Protest ‘Surveilling And Profiling’ At QAU Islamabad. The Friday Times. Retrieved 25 March, 2021, from https://www.thefridaytimes.com/2022/03/01/baloch-students-protest-surveilling-and-profiling-at-qau-islamabad/