Protests continue in Pakistan demanding the safe release of research scholar Hafeez Baloch and several others who have been subjected to enforced disappearances in the country. On Monday, March 21, thousands of Baloch students across different universities in Pakistan boycotted classes and hit the streets demanding their immediate return.
For over a month, civil society groups, students unions and activists have been seeking information on the whereabouts of Hafeez Baloch, a physics researcher at Balochistan’s Quaid-e-Azam University, who was allegedly picked up by security forces while he was delivering a lecture in his hometown of Khuzdar on February 8.
Following his forcible abduction, Baloch students groups have carried out campaigns like #ReleaseHafeezBaloch and #StopHarassingBalochStudents and have organized different protests, hunger strikes and peaceful demonstrations demanding his release.
The Baloch Students Council Islamabad has been mobilizing students and has released several statements calling for boycotts and street demonstrations. Showing support to the protest calls, several student bodies in Balochistan including in Lasbela University, Uthal, Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Khuzdar, and the University of Balochistan marched peacefully on the streets holding banners and placards denouncing enforced disappearances and seeking the release of missing students.
Baloch students have complained of prejudice and racial profiling due to their ethnicity. The Baloch Students Action Committee stated that “harassment of Baloch students through different means is a conspiracy to keep them mentally disturbed.”
Even in the past, student unions have complained that Baloch students have been regularly subjected to surveillance and racial profiling in the country. Several Baloch activists have highlighted that this treatment makes them feel like foreigners in their homeland.
According to reports, students congregated in front of the press club in Islamabad and raised slogans against enforced disappearances, demanding the safe recovery of missing persons in the country.
Last week, the police tried to suppress demonstrations by students using force. At least 200 students were charged for anti-state activities, rioting and criminal conspiracy. Activists like Imaan Mazari and Mohsin Dawar were also charged. However, on March 7, the first information report against the students and other activists was quashed by the court, which asked the federal government to instead redress the grievances of the students.