Protests over custodial death in southwestern Pakistan renew debate on extrajudicial killings

People gather to protest the alleged extrajudicial killing of a 24-year-old ethnic Baloch man in Turbat city, Kech District of Pakistan's Balochistan province, on November 30, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Assad Baloch)
Short Url
Updated 30 November 2023
Follow

Protests over custodial death in southwestern Pakistan renew debate on extrajudicial killings

  • Family says Balach Baloch killed in “fake encounter,” counterterrorism officials say Baloch had confessed to being involved in militancy
  • Protests and shutter down strikes observed across Makran division over killing as government sets up ‘fact-finding’ commission

QUETTA: A protest in southwestern Pakistan over the alleged extrajudicial killing of a 24-year-old ethnic Baloch man entered its seventh day on Thursday, in an ongoing saga that has renewed debate over extrajudicial detentions and deaths and police impunity in Balochistan province where such incidents are not uncommon.

Last week, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Balochistan issued a statement, seen by Arab News, saying Balach Baloch had confessed in custody to being a militant and carrying out a number of attacks. He was arrested on Nov. 20, as per the statement, in possession of five kilograms of explosive materials. Baloch was later killed in a raid on a militant hideout in the city of Turbat, the CTD said.

His family, which finally buried him on Wednesday but vowed to continue protests, has refuted CTD claims, saying Baloch was not involved in any unlawful activities but was picked up by the CTD on Oct. 29 and killed in a “fake encounter.”

Political leaders, human rights activists and families of victims have for decades spoken against killings by the police and other security agencies in staged encounters, a practice where officials claim the victim was killed in a gunfight though they were executed. Authorities deny involvement in such incidents. 

“Things are in progress,” a senior official in a “fact-finding” committee set up to probe the case told Arab News, declining to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the inquiry. 

The body has five members and has been tasked to submit a report within 15 days.

“The families of the deceased blame others, but the Chief Minister Balochistan has constituted an inquiry commission to ascertain the circumstances,” Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti told reporters on Wednesday. “There are actions that need to be taken under the law, we can’t speak on assumptions.”

A spokesperson for the government of Balochistan and the deputy commissioner’s office did not respond to Arab News queries.

“SIT-IN WILL TURN INTO MOVEMENT“

Baloch’s killing has triggered outrage in cities across the Makran division, with a complete shutter down strike observed in Turbat and other towns on Wednesday while roads leading from the area to Pakistan’s main business hub, Karachi, were blocked by protesters.

Following a demand by Baloch’s family, a local court in Turbat had ordered the registration of a First Information Report (FIR), or police complaint, against the CTD team involved in the operation in which the 24-year-old was allegedly killed.

“Now we are protesting because despite court orders, why are the authorities not registering an FIR against the people who killed my brother,” Balach’s elder sister Najma Baloch told Arab News.
On the government’s inquiry tribunal, she said: 

“Neither do I know anything about the inquiry committee nor has anyone from the committee contacted us.”

“Now hundreds of people have joined the protest and are demanding registration of FIR against the CTD team,” she added, saying her family’s “clear demand” was that Baloch’s murderers be punished.

Waseem Safar, a local member of the Baloch Yakjehti Council (BYC) that is organizing the protests, said the protest would continue in Turbat and be expanded across the province if the police case was not filed.

“Now the sit-in will turn into a movement until authorities register an FIR against the personnel involved in Balach’s murder,” he said. “We will expand the protest across Balochistan against this extrajudicial killing.”

Senior analyst Dr. Amir Rana, who is the director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, said extrajudicial detentions and killings would continue as long as the pattern of releasing suspects involved in such crimes continued.

“If the authorities register an FIR against the CTD team involved in the recent Turbat killing, the state and its institutions, including the courts, will release them,” Rana told Arab News, adding that those involved needed to be brought to justice as per the law to set a precedent for the future. 


Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

  • Haris Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder during Karachi-Lahore match on Saturday
  • Doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from injury, says Lahore Qalandars 

LAHORE: Fast bowler Haris Rauf has been ruled out of the remainder of the Pakistan Super League after dislocating his shoulder during two-time defending champion Lahore Qalandars’ two-wicket loss against Karachi Kings on Saturday.

The franchise said in a statement on Sunday that doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from the injury after undergoing scans.

Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder in the last over while holding onto a stunning catch of Hasan Ali during Karachi’s thrilling run-chase as Lahore lost its fourth successive game in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 event.

Rauf struggled in the first three games but bounced back against Karachi with economical figures of 1-22 off his four overs.

“We are deeply saddened by Haris Rauf’s injury,” Lahore captain Shaheen Shah Afridi said. “It was painful to see him missing out … and his absence will be felt.”

Rauf’s injury is the second major bowling setback for Lahore after its premier spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan was ruled out before the tournament due to a back injury.


Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

  • M/s Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market, exports to South Asian country
  • Three mergers are not anticipated to raise competition concerns in the relevant market, says competition commission

ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) this week approved three mergers concerning a leading Saudi company that has a significant presence in Pakistan’s steel market, the regulatory body said. 

Based in the kingdom, M/s/ Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) produces a range of steel products and deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market. Hadeed also exports to the South Asian country through international traders.

The CCP said in its press release on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, sent a pre-merger application to CCP to acquire 100 percent shareholding of Hadeed from M/s. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (“SABIC”).

“PIF has entered into a share purchase agreement with SABIC, under which SABIC agrees to sell its entire share capital of Hadeed to PIF,” the CCP said. 

The second merger involved Hadeed acquiring 100 percent shareholding of Al Rajhi Steel Industries Company from M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment. 

Al Rajhi Steel, established in 1978, is a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Invest and is known for its steel manufacturing capabilities in Saudi Arabia. This involved a share exchange agreement between Hadeed and Al Rajhi Invest.

In the third stage, the CCP said PIF intends to dispose off its 44.5 percent shareholding in Hadeed to M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment, the CCP. It added that the move was intended to share control over Hadeed and Al Rajhi Steel to improve their respective production capabilities and increase their operational efficiency.

“These transactions, as per the information available, are not anticipated to raise any competition concerns in the relevant market,” the CCP said. 

It said Pakistan’s steel sector is “one of the most important industries in the country” and with investments, can raise the country’s GDP to bring benefits to both the economy and investors.


Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

  • Polio volunteers to immunize children under five years old from Feb. 26 to March 3, says national health ministry 
  • Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a Western ploy to sterilize Pakistan’s population

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal health secretary Iftikhar Shallwani on Sunday inaugurated a nationwide campaign against polio that aims to immunize over 45.8 million children against the disease, the national health ministry said. 

Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio is endemic. The disease affects the nervous system of children and ultimately leads to paralysis.

The South Asian country’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Shallwani inaugurated the campaign, which is set to launch nationwide on Monday, by administering polio drops to children. 

“This pivotal campaign, scheduled from Feb 26 to Mar 3, aims to immunize over 45.8 million children under the age of 5 across the country,” the Ministry of National Health Services wrote on X platform. 

Shallwani said polio is a “terrible” disease that can cause paralysis in children.

“Unfortunately, it continues to be a threat to our children because some people refuse to vaccinate children based on misconceptions and false information about the vaccine,” he said. 

He said volunteers will deliver the vaccine to people’s doorsteps from next week, requesting parents to cooperate with them. 

“I implore you to recognize the threat posed by the poliovirus to your children and ensure that you open your doors to facilitate their vaccination,” the health official said. 

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. 


Undefeated Quetta lock horns with Multan Sultans in PSL 9 clash

Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Undefeated Quetta lock horns with Multan Sultans in PSL 9 clash

  • Multan Sultans lost their first match of the tournament to Peshawar Zalmi this week 
  • Despite the loss, the Sultans top the Pakistan Super League points table due to strong run rate

ISLAMABAD: The undefeated Quetta Gladiators will be put to the test today, Sunday, when they face table-toppers Multan Sultans in match number 11 of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 set to take place in Multan. 

The Sultans sit pretty at the top of the table with six points from four matches. However, they lost to former champions Peshawar Zalmi on Friday by five wickets at their home ground in Multan. 

Under new skipper Rilee Rossouw, however, the Gladiators have won all three matches of theirs. 

“I am aware of the conditions on Multan hence I don’t encounter any difficulties playing there,” Rossouw said. “Every match is a new contest, we will implement our plan to win it.”

The Gladiators have the same number of points as the Gladiators, six, from three matches. However, they are placed at number two on the table due to a net run rate of +0.686. The Sultans have a run rate of +0.812 from their four matches. 

The match between the two sides is expected to begin at 2:00 p.m.

Playing XIs (probable):

Multan Sultans: Mohammad Rizwan (c & wk), Dawid Malan, Reeza Hendricks, Yasir Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, David Willey, Usama Mir, Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Ali, Shahnawaz Dahani

Quetta Gladiators: Saud Shakeel, Jason Roy, Rilee Rossouw (c), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Khawaja Nafay, Shefane Rutherford, Akeal Hosein, Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Wasim, Mohammad Hasnain


Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects speaker from majority party 

Updated 34 min 32 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan’s Sindh Assembly elects speaker from majority party 

  • Pakistan Peoples Party’s Syed Owais Qadir Shah secures 111 votes to win speaker’s election 
  • Election for the post of Sindh chief minister is scheduled to be held on Monday

KARACHI: Syed Owais Qadir Shah, a member of the Pakistan Peoples Party which won the highest number of seats in the southern Sindh province during this month’s polls, won the election for the provincial assembly’s speaker on Sunday.

Sofia Saeed Shah, a member of the Muttahida Quami Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) who contested against Shah, polled 36 votes, outgoing speaker Agha Siraj Durrani announced during the assembly’s session. 

“So, I declare honorable member Syed Owais Qadir Shah who has secured the highest number of votes to have been elected as a speaker of the provincial assembly of Sindh,” Durrani said to thunderous applause from legislators. 

Shah took oath shortly and chaired the Sindh Assembly’s session, which will also see the election of Shah’s deputy. 

The voting took place a day after the inaugural Sindh Assembly session when newly elected members of the southern province were sworn in.

Saturday’s oath-taking ceremony was marred by protests in Karachi staged by supporters of various political parties who alleged that the Feb. 8 elections were heavily rigged.

Supporters of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Grand Democratic Alliance, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s southern zone to protest alleged manipulation of Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in release of constituency results.

The PPP has nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again. The party has also nominated Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.

The PPP bagged 84 seats in the southern Pakistani province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) which secured 28 seats, while 14 seats were won by independent candidates. The JI and the GDA won two seats each.

While the inaugural Sindh Assembly session was in progress, several Pakistani parties on Saturday announced they would observe February 27 as a “Black Day” in response to Sindh police firing tear gas at their supporters protesting suspected rigging in the general elections earlier this month.

In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.