A protest in Lahore last month against the killing of activist Karima Baloch. (Photo supplied)
Rights groups and opposition political parties have condemned the government over the funeral arrangements for an activist in Pakistan’s insurgency-stricken Balochistan province.
Karima Baloch, a 37-year-old vocal critic of atrocities committed by the army and government in Balochistan, was found dead a day after she went missing in Toronto, Canada, last month. Her death sparked protests in Canada and Pakistan.
Security forces sealed off her home village of Tump in Kech district on Jan. 25, allowing only residents to attend her funeral. Her body was confiscated by security officials for hours. A curfew was imposed in the area, mobile services were suspended and roads leading to the funeral site were blocked.
“The manner in which the authorities have attempted to foil the funeral arrangements for activist #KarimaBaloch is disgraceful and, regrettably, mirrors the state's attitude towards Balochistan and its people,” stated the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a Jan. 26 Facebook post.
“HRCP strongly urges the state to recognize and address the legitimate concerns that Ms. Baloch spent her life advocating.”
Human Rights for South Asia, a US-based NGO, condemned the “hijacking” of Baloch’s body by authorities. “This is a shameful and inhuman act,” it tweeted on Jan. 24.
In 2016, Baloch was named on the BBC's list of inspirational women. She moved to Canada in 2016 after terrorism charges were leveled against her in Pakistan. She had conducted campaigns against disappearances and human rights violations in Balochistan.
The impoverished southwestern province has been wracked by violence perpetuated by Islamist militants and separatists. Attacks have increased on Christians, Shia Hazara and security forces.
According to Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, more than 6,000 people have gone missing in Balochistan. Since 2009, some 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.
Earlier this month, 11 Shia Hazara miners were killed in a brutal attack claimed by Islamic State gunmen in Balochistan. The miners from the persecuted Muslim minority were kidnapped near a coal mine in Mach close to Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.
Last September, activist Shaheena Shaheen, the editor of Balochi-language magazine Dazgohar, was shot dead at her home in the Turbat area of Balochistan's Kech district.