Well known activist Karima Baloch was found dead in Canada's Toronto recently. She had gone missing on Sunday, and her family later confirmed that the activist's body had been found. At present there is not a lot of information available about the cause of her death, or whether anyone has been held responsible for the same.
Karima who had been vocal in her criticism of Pakistan Army and government atrocities in Balochistan had taken refuge in Canada a few years earlier. She is a famous personality in Balochistan, believed to be the pioneer of women activism in the area. She has also raised the issue of Balochistan in the United Nations sessions in Switzerland.
She first rose to prominence as a member and then leader of the Baloch Students Organization (Azad) - a student group that campaigned for students of Pakistan's Balochistan Province and advocated struggle for an independent Balochistan based on pre-colonial Baloch country. It had been dubbed a terrorist organisation and banned by the Pakistan government.
In 2014, after the organisation's leader Zahid Baloch, was allegedly abduced, Karima became the leader of the group. At that time, the 29 year-old had been a psychology student. Her efforts in the region however were cut short, and towards the end of 2015, the activist made her way to Canada where she eventually became a refugee. An influential figure, she was in 2016 named as one of the world's 100 most "inspirational and influential" women in 2016 by the BBC.
A quick perusal of her verified Twitter handle shows that while Karima may no longer be leading the Baloch Students Organization - Azad any longer, she was vehement in her calls for justice, highlighting various atrocities and speaking out about myriad issues.
In 2017, she had made headlines in India after reaching out to Prime Minister Modi through a video message on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. "On this day I have come to you and would like to say that we consider you as our brother. And we expect that you become the voice of Baloch genocide, war crimes in Balochistan, human rights violation in international forums and become the voice of those sisters whose brothers are missing," Karima said in a video message. She had added that they wanted the PM to "be our voice and make the voice heard in any part of the world".
In an interview in May 2019, she had accused Pakistan of taking away the resources and eliminating the people of Balochistan, the province with immense geo-strategic importance and huge untapped natural resource reserves. More recently, she had taken to social media, repeatedly calling for the release of Shabir Baloch. For the uninitiated, the Balochistan Student Organisation (BSO-Azad) information secretary had been abducted by Pakistani forces on October 4.
Balochistan is a restive province where the Pakistani military is accused of indulging in gross human rights violations including abducting and killing of innocents. Resource-rich Balochistan has been gripped by an insurgency for more than 15 years. The family members and relatives of Baloch political leaders and workers had always faced state brutalities and barbarism in Balochistan. There have been several instances where Pakistani security forces conduct operations on individual households, physically assault innocent women and children, and rely on extrajudicial death squads to subjugate Baloch civilians.
The news of Karima's sudden death has raised concern and consternation among people, both online and offline. While many have lashed out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, others noted the fact that she is only the latest casualty in a long list of dissenters who have passed away or gone missing. In May for example, Baloch journalist Sajid Hussain was found dead in Sweden. He had been missing from the city of Uppsala since March 2.
(With inputs from agencies)