ISLAMABAD: The caretaker government on Monday claimed that 290 Baloch protesters — who were arrested during a demonstration in Islamabad against enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings — had been released from jail and police custody.
In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), the interior ministry said the decision was taken in light of the negotiations held between the Baloch demonstrators and a cabinet committee.
The Baloch protest march — which started in Turbat on December 6 after the alleged extrajudicial killing of a Baloch youth by Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) personnel — had reached the federal capital last week.
However, they were met with brutal force and more than 200 protesters were taken into custody by the Islamabad police. In light of the crackdown, the march led by the Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) had converted into a sit-in outside the National Press Club.
On Saturday, the BYC had given a three-day ultimatum to the government to quash the cases registered against students and activists and release all of the protesters. The following day, the Islamabad police announced it was releasing all the detained protesters after their bail was approved.
The police had also set up a “special help centre” for the release of the incarcerated individuals.
In its statement issued today, the interior ministry confirmed the release of 290 detained protesters. “Peaceful protests are the right of every citizen but no one will be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” it said.
It added that the security of the Red Zone had been ensured in every way as it houses the Diplomatic Enclave and other constitutional bodies. The special help centre set up by the police has completed its job, the ministry said.
Over 100 Baloch protesters in custody
Meanwhile, in a social media post on Sunday night, the BYC said only 160 protesters had been released until now and over 100 were still in police custody or “missing”.
It said the Islamabad police had not provided correct information to the protesters and the media, adding that Dr Zaheer Baloch, one of the detained protesters, was still missing.
“We are concerned about his life,” the committee added.
Separately, Dr Mahrang Baloch, one of the march organisers, demanded the release of all the protesters “or otherwise we will be forced to take hard steps”.