Baloch ends 33-day
protest amid anger,
will hold rally in
Balochistan on Jan 27


ISLAMABAD: The Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) has announced ending protest sit-in that it started last month outside National Press Club (NPC) Islamabad against “enforced disappearances”. They had been protesting in the federal capital since December 20, 2023 against “enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings”.

Activist Dr Mahrang Baloch, one of the protest organisers, said they are returning to Balochistan from Islamabad. “We will hold a rally in Balochistan on January 27,” she added.

The protest came to end a day after NPC Islamabad on Monday lodged a complaint with the Kohsar Police Station requesting to remove the Baloch protesters from the open park in front of the NPC.

Dr Mahrang addresses a press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday (FP, inside)
Dr Mahrang Baloch addresses a press conference in Islamabad outside the National Press Club.

The NPC’s request was later withdrawn following severe criticism from all quarters, including journalists. The camp was set on December 22 and had persisted despite harsh weather. Further, organisers of the Islamabad sit-in had also accused police of harassing their supporters and profiling them as well as registering first information reports against them.

In the letter to the Islamabad police, the NPC had requested that a plan be drawn up to relocate the protesters to a different location so “the difficulties for the press club and all residents and the business community can be reduced”.

The letter said that the press club’s sole means of income were press conferences and seminars held at its premises. It said the sit-in and its related issues such as security requirements were impeding not only the club’s members but also the holding of its events, as well as the local business community and residents.

Press release issued by National Press Club, Islamabad
Press release issued by National Press Club, Islamabad

Responding to the letter, Dr Mahrang Baloch, one of the protest organisers, had expressed dismay and said the journalist and media community “have an obligation to stand with people whose voices are neglected”.
Addressing a late-night press conference, she had also said demonstrators were “under severe pressure to vacate the camp”. “We are being harassed and threatened, with police circulating false information and journalists being stopped from visiting us. We are told there is a possible threat around the press club area,” she had said.
Mahrang termed the letter by the NPC a “stain” on the profession of journalism. “We will take back the message of hate we received. We will remember everything that has happened with us,” she asserted, adding that the protesters would head back to Balochistan tomorrow.
“We are not against the state, the state is against us,” she said, adding that Baloch protesters had been trying to communicate with the authorities to find a solution to the issue of missing persons. “It is a shame that despite election campaigns being under way, no political party has spoken about the issue of missing persons,” she said.

Dr Mahrang Baloch said demonstrators were “under severe pressure to vacate the camp”. “We are being harassed and threatened, with police circulating false information and journalists being stopped from visiting us. We are told there is a possible threat around the press club area,” she added.

Ms Baloch complained that a propaganda campaign had been ongoing for the past two months, and neither the establishment nor any other state entity bothered to listen to their demands.

“What we see now is a shrinking space to talk about our woes,” she said and lamented that the media is apparently under pressure, and their protest is not getting any coverage on the mainstream news channels.

She complained that authorities are “profiling male protesters” and expressed fear of possible retribution later.

Flanked by human rights activists Farhatullah Babar and Afrasiyab Khattak, Dr Baloch said women, children and the elderly were at the camp, enduring the harsh winter of Islamabad. With visible signs of fatigue and sickness among some participants, she was asked if the BYC was considering calling off the protest for now.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

Earlier today, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that it stood in solidarity with the Baloch camp that “has faced persistent harassment from local law enforcement as well as dismissal from government authorities”.

It also said it was “deeply concerned” by efforts to uproot the camp. “The validity of the Baloch protestors’ demands cannot continue to be ignored, and must be heeded with the legitimacy it deserves, not with undue force or defamation,” the commission said.

NPC says letter ‘taken out of context’

Separately, the NPC clarified that its request regarding the removal of the Baloch protest camp was “taken out of context” and “viewed with suspicion”.

In a fresh statement today, a copy of which is available with, the NPC said it had always given a platform to Baloch protesters and yesterday’s letter did not have intentions to hurt anyone or “take a particular stance”. Rather, it had called for the safety of the demonstrators, it claimed.

“The request came in light of present security concerns (which include threats of attacks) and took into consideration the safety and well-being of the journalist community,” the NPC stated.

It said the letter addressed to the Islamabad police yesterday was withdrawn owing to a “misunderstanding”. The NPC alleged that certain people operating “with an agenda” were trying to create a rift between the club and Baloch protesters.

It concluded that the NPC had always accommodated various groups and would continue providing a platform to those who needed it.

Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) leaders

Baloch Yakjehti Committee (BYC) leaders have said their “peaceful” demonstration is only to seek information about the whereabouts of their loved ones who have gone missing.

The NPC’s request for action against protesters was later withdrawn following severe criticism from all quarters, including journalists.

In his address, Farhatullah Babar said the women protesters are “an inspiration” for peaceful protest against state violence.

The Islamabad High Court had ordered that peaceful protesters be not disturbed, but it appeared that the city administration was planning to uproot the camp, he said, adding that this was unfair. He said the protesters had covered a distance of over 1,500 kilometres from Turbat in Balochistan to Islamabad and peacefully sat in the federal capital.

Mama Qadeer Baloch, the veteran activist seeking the release of Baloch missing persons, also joined the BYC camp in Islamabad on Monday. He said there was no reason for talks with the state authorities as “they have been deceiving them for a long time”.