Activist Dr Mahrang Baloch on Saturday lambasted the imposition of Section 144 in Quetta by the provincial government, calling it “an attempt to disrupt and disturb our right to peaceful assembly.”
After conducting a month-long protest sit-in in Islamabad, the participants of the Turbat long march, led by Dr Baloch, had on Thursday arrived in Quetta with a plan to stage a rally in the provincial capital today.
The protest march had originated in Turbat following the alleged extrajudicial killing of Balaach Mola Bakhsh, attributed to the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD). The participants had demanded the registration of an FIR against the officials involved.
Starting their march from Turbat, the participants travelled through various areas, ultimately reaching Islamabad. There, they staged a sit-in in front of the National Press Club, advocating for an end to enforced disappearances of students, political workers, and human rights defenders.
They called for the establishment of a judicial commission to investigate the killing of missing persons. The protesters had on Tuesday announced to call off their sit-in outside the NPC and move to Quetta.
In the latest development, Dr Mahrang said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) said that the Balochistan government had imposed Section 144 to ban public gatherings as part of “phase five of our peaceful movement against human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances through a rally in Quetta”.
Section 144 was imposed by the provincial government in Quetta for 10 days on Friday to prohibit public gatherings, after the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) police thwarted a major terrorist attack planned in Quetta and arrested a key commander of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Jan Achakzai, Balochistan’s caretaker information minister, emphasised that Section 144 had been imposed to ensure public safety following continuous reports of security threats.
After the move, he had said, obtaining a no-objection certificate from the deputy commissioner of Quetta had been made mandatory to hold election campaign meetings or other gatherings.
However, according to Dr Mahrang, the imposition of Section 144 was an attempt to disrupt the “peaceful gathering” of protesters.
“I want to draw your attention to the fact that in case of any unpleasant event or anything happening to peaceful protesters and the families of missing persons, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar Ul Haq Kakar, government provincial spokesperson Jan Achakzai, the Balochistan government, and law enforcement agencies must be held accountable,” Dr Baloch.
She added that a government spokesperson had also spread rumors about the possibility of a suicide bombing.