Prominent Balochistan activist Karima Baloch, who had for years been vocal about alleged Pakistani atrocities in Balochistan, has been found dead in Toronto, Canada.
According to reports, the 35-year-old former student leader and activist who fled Pakistan in 2016 had gone missing from Toronto on Sunday. Police found her body drowned off an island near Toronto’s lakeshore. Reports suggest Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI might be responsible for the attack.
But who was Karima Baloch?
Karima Baloch was a Canadian refugee from Pakistan who first rose to prominence as a vocal critic of the Pakistani government in 2016 after she ran away from the country and sought exile in Canada. Formerly a student of psychology in Pakistan, Karima was also the former chairperson of Baloch Students Organisation – Azad.
In 2016, she was named as one of BBC's Top 100 Most Influential Women. While her vocal criticism of Pakistan earned her international acclaim, Indians also became privy to Karima after she reached out to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Rakhsha Bandhan and appealed to him to help Balochistan nationalists with their cause.
Was Karima Baloch anti-Pakistan?
Karima is known to pioneer women's activism in Balochistan, one of the most conflicted regions in Pakistan. Even after leaving Pakistan, she had been vocal in criticizing Pakistan's alleged atrocities and human rights violations in the province. In 2018, Karima spoke at an event in Toronto to mark 70 years of Paksitani allegedly forced and illegal occupation of Balochistan. Karima and other pro-Balochistan activists have often sought support for India. Karima also raised the issue of Balochistan occupation in the UN's Switzerland session. In 2019, she gave an interview in which she said that Pakistan was forcibly taking away resources from Balochistan and eliminating Balochistanis.
What is the conflict between Pakistan and Balochistan?
Baloch activists claim that the province was forcibly taken over by Pakistan on March 27, 1948. Anti-Pakistan activists claim that without the forcible occupation, Balochistan - the largest and resource-rich yet most backward province of Pakistan - could have been a free nation. The region has since seen ongoing insurgency with the Balochistan Liberation Army, one of the most prominent separatist groups in Balochistan, carrying out several terror attacks on Pakistani military locations as well as security personnel. The organisation has been branded 'terrorist' by the Pakistani government.
Is Karima Baloch the only Baloch activist to meet death?
Karima Baloch is not the first Balochistan activist to turn up dead overseas. Journalist Sajid Hussain, also from Baloch and another critic of Pakistan's alleged occupation of the region, went missing from Swededn's Uppsala in Marchg. The journalist turned up dead in May. 'Reporters without Borders' reported later that the death may have been orchestrated by Pakistani Intelligence agencies.
In October 4, 2016, yet another human rights activist Shabbir Baloch was arrested by Pakistan and subsequently went missing. According to reports, he was abducted by the Pakistani Army from Gowarkop when he was attending the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Earlier in October, Karima, who often spoke about forced disappearances in Baloch, and other Canadian-Baloch activists held an event to commemorate four years of Shabbir Baloch's disappearance.