Human rights activists call for his immediate release; future
course of action to be decided following today’s court hearing
With a lapse of over a month since the expiration of his 90-day remand, secretary general of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) Saeed Baloch continues to be in the custody of Rangers, observed human rights’ activists on Monday while calling for his immediate release in a meeting held at the office of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).
A known civil society activist, Baloch, associated with the PFF - an organisation that works for protection of socio-economic and political rights of the indigenous fisherfolk community of the country - was arrested along with Dilmurad Baloch for his alleged involvement in embezzling fisheries’ funds and having close ties with notorious Lyari kingpin, Uzair Baloch, on January 16.
Both of them were also office-bearers of the Fishermen Cooperative Society’s (FCS) labour union.
Presided over by HRCP vice chairperson Asad Iqbal Butt, the meeting was attended by prominent trade union leader, Liaquat Ali Sahi, Zufiqar Shah of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Farhat Parveen of Now Communities and a few others.
Speaking to The News, field officer of HRCP Abdul Hayee said representatives of the joint action committee, formed by civil society organisations against arrests of Baloch`s arrest, would be present at his hearing scheduled for today (Tuesday), and any further course of action would be decided as per the court`s proceedings on the matter.
“After consulting with our panel of lawyers, which includes Rasheed A Razvi and Faisal Siddiqi, we would exercise our constitutional rights.”
Expressing her reservations on the case, Farhat, executive director of NOW Communities said Baloch was still in the custody of the law enforcers even though his remand had expired.
“It clearly shows that the personnel do not have any substantive evidence against him.”
Baloch was arrested after a crackdown was initiated on the FCS apparently due to the provincial government’s appointment of Dr Nisar Morai - a close aide of former President Asif Ali Zardari – as its chairman in January 2014.
The first ones to have been arrested were Sultan Qamar Siddiqui, the acting-chairman of the FCS, on June 17 last year while two of its directors, Muhammad Khan Chachar and Rana Shahid were arrested on June 19 over their alleged involvement in demanding extortions, target killings, corruption and funding Lyari’s criminal syndicates. Their arrests were followed by Saeed and Dilmurad Baloch’s, on January 16.
Ex-FCS chairman Dr Morai was the latest to have been detained by the law enforcers, on March 11 this year, from Islamabad; he was later shifted to Karachi where his 90-day remand was endorsed by a court.
According to reports, Baloch`s wife had filed a petition for his recovery in the Sindh High Court on January 17, which was not accepted in the court by Justice Ahmed Shiekh on the grounds that the petition against Sindh Rangers could not be heard by a single bench.
The petition was then referred to the chief justice of the Sindh High Court, who formed a divisional bench consisting of two judges. The bench heard the petition on January 25 and deferred the case to February 1, asking the Sindh Rangers to file their comments.
On January 26, Baloch was produced in court by Rangers officers where his 90-day remand was endorsed.