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Accused Baloch women sent to prison for lack of women-only lock-ups

The four Baloch women forcibly disappeared by paramilitary personnel and then handed over to the civilian law enforcers last week have now been shifted to prison for lack of women-only lock-ups at the police station.

The Anti-Terrorism Department had requested a judicial magistrate yesterday, December 2, to let them shift the women, booked on terrorism charges, to a prison in the Khuzdar district as they could not lock them up along with men.

The women had been forcibly picked up from Balochistan’s Awaran’ district by Frontier Corpse personnel in three different raids on November 29. The next day, however, the civilian Levies force claimed it were them who had arrested the women.

In a statement which said nothing about the women’s identity, they accused them of being linked to the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF), two militant groups fighting Pakistan’s army for a separate Baloch homeland.

They also released a photo of the accused which showed two female Levies officials sandwiching them while arms and ammunition, allegedly recovered from their possession, laid artfully in front of them on the ground.

Hundreds of Baloch activists and politicians have condemned the incident on the social media.

Some activists are using #SaveBalochWomen to ask international human rights groups to investigate the matter.

Sakina and Sayad Bibi had been enforced disappeared in two separate FC raids in Harooni Dann and Mashi areas, respectively, while Hameeda and Nazal had been whisked away from Pirandar Zelag area of Awaran, the home district of BLF chief Allah Nazar.

Allah Nazar’s own wife, along with other women and children, was enforced disappeared in October 2017. She had been released a few days later.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, over 5,000 Baloch have been forcibly disappeared since 2001 when Pakistan military launched its counter-insurgency operations in Balochistan to curb a separatist Baloch insurgency. Local groups and nationalist organizations claim the number of Baloch missing persons is as high as 20,000.

Since 2017, an increasing number of cases involving the forcible disappearance of women and children have been reported by local and international human rights groups.

At least 101 women have been forcibly disappeared in Balochistan since January 2017, according to a list provided to us by the Human Rights Council of Balochistan, a human rights group which monitors cases of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the war-torn region.

The Sweden-based group said most of these women had been released, but they could not confirm how many are still missing.

“They did the same thing in Bangladesh in 1971. They think they can crush the will of the men by dishonouring their women. It does works in a patriarchal society like Balochistan where women are supposed to embody the men’s honour,” Taj Baloch, Chairman HRCB, told Balochistan Times.

He said most of the women enforced disappeared since 2017 have male relatives active in separatist groups. “Since the men are hiding away in the mountains, their women are easy prey for the military to provoke their men into doing something stupid.”

 

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