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Protests over woman’s house arrest in Turbat

TURBAT: Women take part in a demonstration.— Dawn
TURBAT: Women take part in a demonstration.

KARACHI: Protests that began a week ago in Turbat, Balochistan, are making their way to Karachi after reports of a woman held under house arrest in Turbat reached here through a human rights group.

According to Ghani Parwaz, a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) who led a series of protests in Turbat last week, policemen took over a house in Doctor’s Colony after they traced the mobile phone of Bakhtawar, wife of Khalil Sachaan, a suspected leader of the banned Balochistan Libera­tion Front (BLF).

Mr Parwaz said that Ms Bakhtawar had come from Dagari Kahan, a village near Turbat, to the city to seek medical treatment for her newborn baby and was staying with a family in Doctor’s Colony.

“The Frontier Corps (FC) traced her phone and tracked her down at the house belonging to Abdur Rauf, a retired government official who lives there with his wife and three daughters. During joint interrogation by police and FC personnel in the house, Ms Bakhtawar was asked about her husband’s activities and his current location which she had no idea about,” Mr Perwaz said.

In the meantime, Abdur Rauf, 70, was arrested by the FC, he said, adding that he was being investigated as a facilitator in the case.

“When we went to the house as part of a fact-finding mission set up by the HRCP, we were not allowed in the house and were asked to leave,” Mr Parwaz said.

According to a journalist from Turbat, people of the area became angry at the paramilitary force and police for coming after an unarmed woman and keeping her under house arrest.

“Soon, the grievance turned into a reason for protest and people took to streets as news circulated about the house being surrounded by policemen acting on behalf of the FC,” he said.

Subsequently, the protests reached Karachi as a human rights group held a demonstration outside the city’s press club on Saturday demanding an end to “the siege of the house”.

An FC official from Turbat said: “There are only two women constables in the house and one male constable sitting outside to keep guard. There is no siege.

“We have never misbehaved with women earlier and there’s no reason for us to do that now. We are here to work for our Baloch brothers and our main aim is to arrest terrorists who are opposing development projects in the province.”

He said that Khalil Sac­haan was a suspected leader of the BLF and believed to have shot dead 20 construction labourers in Turbat last year. “We recently received a lead that he is in Turbat and planning an activity against development projects related to the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor.”

The FC official said that police took care of Bakhtawar’s ailing baby “by calling in a doctor to the house”. -DN


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