The body of 37-year-old Karima Baloch, a Baloch activist, was discovered in a lake in Toronto, Canada, on 21 December 2020 after she went missing the previous day.
Karima Baloch was from Eastern Balochistan, which has been a part of the artificial state of Pakistan ever since it was annexed in 1948. This is why many Baloch refer to Eastern Balochistan as under occupation. To save her life and find a safe place to continue her freedom struggle, Karima Baloch left her homeland and sought sanctuary in Canada in 2015, where she was granted political asylum in 2016. In Canada, she continuously received death threats from people within the Pakistani diaspora, many of whom were retired army generals or members of their families or their supporters.
The Baloch in Eastern Balochistan regained their independence from Britain on 11 August 1947. Three days after this date, the British Empire officially divided India and forged the first Islamic state under the name of Pakistan. On 26 March 1948, the Pakistan army invaded Eastern Balochistan and annexed it to Pakistan. This was the day that the Baloch waged their second battle against colonialism. Karima Baloch’s struggle was against Punjabi Islamo-fascist colonialism (here, where Punjabi elites exercised control over the Pakistan state). She was murdered because she spearheaded the Baloch women’s march and struggle against colonialism.
The plain and grim fact is that in any war of independence, it is usually children and women who pay the highest price. In the Baloch liberation struggle, Baloch women have not only been fighting against colonial rule but they have also been fighting against two other forms of tyranny. Baloch women are not only confronted with the worst type of Islamic fundamentalist states but also the prevailing rigid patriarchal order of their own society. Karima Baloch bravely swept aside and overcame these difficult hurdles. She battled her way forward for a wider and deeper involvement and participation of men and women in the Baloch freedom movement.
Karima Baloch, Emily Davison, Rosa Luxemburg, Anne Frank …
Karima was a pioneer. Like most upstanding freedom fighters, she paid the highest price. She demonstrated the power of Baloch women to the world. For her groundbreaking steps, her name will always be remembered in Balochistan. Karima is an emblem of Baloch women’s resistance. She was an embodiment of women’s courage and devotion. Karima was a discerning, caring, and principled intellectual. Her name will be imprinted in the mind of every enlightened and informed Baloch as a defender of liberty, democracy, equality, and justice.
In Balochistan, her name will be revered forever. Her influence and significance place her alongside inspirational people such as the suffragette Emily Davison (1872-1913), the German Social Democrat intellectual Rosa Luxemburg (1870-1919), and the Jewish girl Anne Frank (1929-1945), a victim of the fascist holocaust. Emily fought for equal rights for women. She campaigned for a woman’s right to vote. It was her protest that shook the conscience of the world. On 4 June 1913, she threw herself in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in England. Tragically, she was fatally injured and died on 8 June 1913.
Emily’s protest for equal rights for women has defined the women’s emancipation struggle ever since. In the course of her protests and struggles, she was arrested on nine different occasions, participated in hunger strikes, was brutally treated in prison and subjected to torture with her female colleagues and force-fed 49 times whilst in prison. In 1909, she was sentenced to a month of hard labour in Strangeways prison.
Equal in importance was the German Social Democrat leader Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919). The right-wing German paramilitaries abducted her on 15 January 1919. Rosa was tortured and subsequently killed. Her executioners dumped her body in Kreuzberg, in the Landwehr canal. None of her plotters and perpetrators of her murder were arrested or convicted. Rosa’s only crime was that she was ahead of her time. She was amongst a handful of women philosophers and economists who were advocating a political system based on freedom and social justice.
Then there is the heart-wrenching demise of Anne Frank (1929-45) who happened to be a child of Jewish parents. Under Nazi occupation, her so-called crime was that she was Jewish. After the Nazis came to power in 1933 in Germany, Anne’s family travelled to the Netherlands to take refuge. In 1942, the family went into hiding. Two years later, their hiding place was discovered and the Nazis sent the family to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Except for Anne’s father, Anne and the rest of her family perished in the camp. The death of Anne Frank was long, slow, and very painful. It was deliberately designed, calculated methodically, and executed fastidiously. The killing of an innocent child wilfully in this manner is a mark of the utmost human depravity and barbarity. Something that always stays as an indelible scar on human conscience.
Karima Baloch had all the qualities of these three pioneering women. Like Emily Davison, Karima was a brave and dedicated freedom fighter and a campaigner for the women’s liberation movement. Much the same as Rosa Luxemburg, she was a political philosopher who diligently and daringly advocated freedom of thought, democracy, gender equality, equality of opportunity, and social justice. Just like Anne Frank, Karima was murdered for her identity. Anne Frank was a victim of Nazi racism and Karima Baloch a victim of Pakistan’s state-directed Islamo-fascism. The murder of Anne Frank was the result of actions taken by racial supremacists and the killer of Karima can only be described as being part of an Islamist tyrannical movement. They both were the victims of religious and ideological intolerance. Karima was a secular democrat political activist who defended religious freedom and the separation of religion from the state. She personally experienced the worst types of abuse of a theocratic state.
Extrajudicial killings, acid attacks and rape as colonial war strategies
Karima was at the forefront of the Baloch liberation struggle when the Pakistan army and rulers of Pakistan directed all their efforts against the Baloch nation. It was a time when the repressive Pakistan armed forces resorted to every heinous means to lock up Baloch women at home and to debilitate their political, economic, social, cultural, and civil activities. One of the means used to prevent Baloch women from taking an active part in the Baloch liberation movement was – and is – to extrajudicially kill Baloch political and human rights women activists.
Bibi Mahtab Raisani Baloch was an eighty year old Baloch human rights activist. She was a courageous woman. She had the courage to cross the enemy zone and collect the bodies of Baloch freedom fighters and bring them back to their families. Bibi Mahtab actively took part in Baloch demonstrations and pickets for the recovery of the ‘enforced disappeared’ Baloch political and human rights activists. The Pakistani security agencies tampered with the car that she was travelling in, from Quetta to Karachi, to attend the judicial commission for the recovery of Baloch missing persons. An explosive device was hidden under the car and was set off overturning the car whilst she was travelling in it. On 22 May 2010, Mahtab Baloch died from her injuries. This was not an isolated incident.
Ms. Zamur Domki and her young daughter were shot dead at point-blank range on 31 January 2012 and in January 2015, the Pakistan army killed two sisters, Samina and Shireen Baloch. In November 2016, they killed Gull Bakht Bugti and in March 2017, they murdered Fatima Baloch in Turbat. Over the last two decades, the army of Pakistan has organised several death squads, conscripted from Muslim fanatics, bandits, and drug smugglers.
One of these groups that is involved in all these activities is Shafiq Mengal’s death squad. Whenever and wherever the Pakistan army is unable to carry out its ‘dirty jobs’, it uses these death squads. In May 2020, one of these squads was responsible for murdering Malik Naz Baloch in Dannuk and in June 2020, another death squad murdered Kulsoom Baloch in Tump. In July 2020, they killed a nine year old Baloch girl, Naz Bibi in Harnai, and in September 2020, they murdered Shaheena Baloch, a Baloch journalist.
Another targeting strategy that the Pakistan army employs against Baloch women is one that employs the use of acid attacks. This heinous policy is intended to prevent Baloch girls and women from taking an active part in political and civic life. These monstrous acts are undertaken in the hope of getting Baloch women and girls immobilised and locked up, restricted in their homes.
One acid attack campaign began in 2010 and lasted for a few years. In the Kalat district of Balochistan, three sisters, Saima (8), Skina Bibi (14), and Fatima Bibi (20) were attacked with acid on 29 April 2010. In May 2010, two Baloch girls were attacked in Noshki. On 10 September 2011, four female teachers, Robina Mushwani (21), Fazila Bangulzai (23), Sajida Bibi (24), and Surriya Langhov (21) were subjected to serious acid attacks in Quetta. Two more acid attacks were reported in July 2014 in Mastung and Quetta. The victims of the attack in Quetta were Bibi Zulekha, Bibi Safia, Bibi Noor Jan, and Ayesha.
It is a well-known fact that the army of Pakistan was involved in the rape of about half a million Bengali women within nine months during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1971. This ‘rape-war strategy’ has also been used against Baloch, Pashtun, and Sindhi women who are under the colonial domination of Pakistan’s army. Zarina Marri, a 23-year Baloch female teacher, was abducted in December 2005. The Pakistan army kept her as a sex slave for several years and then she vanished never to be seen again. It was during this period of targeting of the Baloch that Karima Baloch organised and led the Baloch women’s liberation movement.
Shahzavar Karimzadi is a Baloch economist, human rights activist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire in England. He is the author of several books, including ‘Methodology of Deception’ (Humgaam Press, 2015), ‘Dialectic of Regressive Errors’ (Humgaam Press, 2015) and ‘Money and its Origins’ (Routledge, 2013).