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Pakistan: FIR on Baloch rights activist Mahrang sparks outcry

Baloch leader and social activist Mahrang Baloch (Photo: X/BalochYakjehtiC)

The Quetta police have filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Baloch rights activist Mahrang Baloch and several others, alleging their involvement in a protest against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings on May 18 that disrupted traffic on Court Road.

According to the FIR, the protesters forcibly entered the Quetta Press Club by breaking the lock, where they purportedly delivered speeches and shouted slogans against Pakistan. The FIR against Baloch has ignited a legal battle and sparked widespread condemnation from journalists and activists.

Taking to social media platform X, Ali Jan Maqsood, a practising lawyer and Baloch journalist said, “Miserably failing to curb the voices of the oppressed, the Quetta police lodged FIR against Mahrang Baloch, Sebgat, Beebagr and 200 others as a means to further suppress their voices. Such acts will only unveil state institutions’ unfair behaviour towards peaceful Baloch.”

Exiled human rights activist Gulalai Ismail said, “Strongly condemn the registration of FIR against Mahrang Baloch. It’s part of the war Pakistani state has waged against the Baloch youth. This blatant attempt to silence Mahrang through harassment litigation must end. Let her live and campaign”

The Quetta administration cited terrorism threats as the primary reason for sealing off the Press Club and its surrounding areas on that day, preventing the Baloch Solidarity Committee from organizing a conference titled “Gwadar: From Mega Projects to Mega Jail” at the venue.

The lockdown of the Press Club had drawn sharp criticism from the Balochistan Union of Journalists, who vehemently denounced it as an assault on press freedom and a clear violation of Article 19 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression.

In a show of solidarity, journalists had boycotted a session of the Balochistan Assembly, demanding the suspension of the Deputy Commissioner of Quetta and expressing their discontent with the administration through chants and slogans.

The boycott concluded following assurances from the Balochistan Chief Minister, during which journalists presented a comprehensive four-point set of demands aimed at addressing grievances and ensuring accountability within the administration.

As tensions continue to simmer, Balochistan stands at a critical juncture, grappling with questions of democracy and freedom of expression.