Over 50 activists, journalists and intellectuals from all around the world have expressed concerns over the mysterious death of exiled Baloch activist Karima Baloch in Toronto and urged Canadian authorities to initiate a "high-level and thorough investigation" in the matter.
In a statement, Justice for Karima Baloch Collective, a collective of activists, journalists academics, intellectuals and concerned citizens, said that Baloch's "mysterious death is alarming" because it is not the first this year. The collective recalled the death of Sajid Hussain, a journalist who wrote about human rights violations in Balochistan.
Early this year, he was found dead in a river in Sweden after disappearing for two months. Like Karima, he had also sought asylum after receiving threats to his life in Pakistan.
"Unfortunately, in both cases, the police have been not very forthcoming with details and have called them either accidental deaths or suicide, although there are ample reasons to consider otherwise," the statement read.
Afrasiab Khattak of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Naela Quadri Baloch of Baloch People's, Congress and Fahem Abed, The New York Times Afghanistan are among those who signed the statement.
The dead body of Baloch, well-known human rights and political activist who took refuge in Canada after fleeing Pakistan in 2015 due to serious threats to her life in Balochistan, was found in Ontario Lake Toronto harbourfront Monday morning after being missing on Sunday afternoon.
Baloch was the first-ever woman President of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO-Azad), one of the largest student bodies in Balochistan. She was also a member of the Baloch National Movement and was named as one of the world's 100 most inspirational and influential women in 2016 by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for her courage and bravery.
After moving out of the country for her safety to Canada, she continued raising her voice against the serious human rights violations in Balochistan, including (enforced) disappearances of people, arbitrary arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings.
Baloch was a strong critic of the "Kill and Dump" policy of Pakistani state authorities in Balochistan. In exile, she continued to receive threats for her activism from Pakistan security agencies, proof of which is available with her husband and other family members.
"We, a collective of activists, journalists, academics, intellectuals and concerned citizens of the world express our grave concern over the mysterious death of exiled Baloch activist Karima Baloch in Toronto, Canada," the statement read.
"We urge that Canadian authorities consider the context in which all this is happening and it cannot be ignored. The pattern of Pakistani activists especially the Baloch being abducted, killed, and dumped in mysterious conditions in Pakistan and abroad has raised fears among the Pakistani exiled community, of not just the involvement of Pakistani security agencies, but also other hostile agencies around the world - especially China, that is deeply involved in Balochistan, and the two mysterious deaths this year are of people of Baloch origin," the statement further read.
The Justice for Karima Baloch Collective has requested Canada and other countries around the world to take measures for safeguarding the lives of other exiled Pakistani and global activists seeking safety outside their homelands.
"Therefore we the 'Justice for Karima Baloch Collective' demand the police to initiate a high level and thorough investigation into the mysterious death of Karima Baloch taking into consideration all of the above, especially the threats she and her family had been receiving from Pakistani authorities," the statement read.