Karima Baloch’s funeral

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Pakistan’s security officials abducted Karima Baloch’s body from Karachi airport early Sunday morning. Against her family’s wish, armed soldiers escorted them and the ambulance carrying her body out of the city. Initially, we thought the thinking behind this drastic action was to stop the family from passing through Lyari on their way to Balochistan as thousands had planned to gather in the Karachi neighbourhood to pay their respects to the deceased activist. But it’s now clear that we underestimated the paranoia of those who run Pakistan.

They did not let the family be even after entering Balochistan. They transported the family as if they were prisoners all the way to her hometown of Tump, which is about 750 kilometres from Karachi in District Kech. Mobile services were suspended in the district, and Tump and surrounding areas were put under strict lockdown. Videos circulating on social media yesterday showed Frontier Corps sepoys mistreating the people who had gathered on roadsides to just have a glimpse of the ambulance. This morning, nobody, not even close relatives, was allowed entry to Tump to attend her funeral. She was buried by a handful of family members and neighbours as armed soldiers watched. This episode established beyond doubt that they are not just content with making us miserable in life, they want to show us they can go to great lengths to humiliate us in death too.

One wonders what frightened a nuclear-armed state this much. The skies would certainly not have fallen if a few thousand had gathered to witness the burial of an activist they loved so dearly and gone home. If the Pakistan army’s policymakers think spreading fear is a successful tactic, they are wrong. They did the same with Nawab Akbar Bugti’s body a decade and a half ago but still failed to suppress the Baloch movement.

Moreover, it seemed there was a competition among different branches of Pakistan’s establishment which of them could get uglier. The winner could be FC soldiers who enforced the curfew in Tump. Perhaps it was Pakistan’s Consulate General in Toronto that leaked its letters of correspondence with the police about the transfer of Karima’s body or the ISPR’s trolls that shared those letters online in desperate attempts to malign her. Then again, the prize could go to that ISI death squad leader, a known thug and drug peddler, who a couple of weeks ago in Turbat said Karima was an Indian agent. They certainly outdid each other.

But in reality, they did not win, and they know it. Despite all that ugliness, they got to witness what she meant for the Baloch people. An entire nation came together to celebrate the idea of Karima Baloch. This and future generations will remember her fondly for who she was and what she stood for. Pakistan’s rulers made sure of it.