Saqib Karim, a young dissident from Balochistan has died under mysterious
circumstances in distant Azerbijan, Central Asia, joining a lengthening line of
political exiles allegedly being targeted by Pakistan’s shadowy intel
Baloch National Movement (BNM) has urged the Azerbaijan government to
investigate the death of Saqib, pointing out that he was forced into exile after
his two brothers, residing in Balochistan, were killed in custody by the
Pakistan Army personnel after being abducted.
Baloch youths have of late become special targets in retaliation to protests
by BNM and several other ‘nationalist’ bodies who raise issues in public,
besides the so-called ‘disappearances’ of the youths, siphoning of natural
resources, discrimination in jobs and infrastructure projects being pursued
under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Relatives and colleagues unanimously accuse Pakistan’s “deep state”,
namely the military and an array intelligence and security outfits of the
government, of targeting critics living in exile abroad.
There is no respite for those who flee Pakistan. The body of Banuk Karima
Baloch, a political refugee and a BNM leader, was found by the river in
Canada. Another Baloch journalist and intellectual Sajid Hussain was found
dead in Sweden.
A BNM spokesperson claimed that the police couldn’t find any evidence of
murder in both cases as they were drowned and according to the doctors,
drowning erase the evidence of murder. “The relevant police should also see
if there was no reason to kill them, was it just a coincidence that the Baloch
refugees drowned in a continuous process?”
This is becoming a global trend in that to live in exile, even in well-governed
democracies with robust rule of law in place, is not safe for Pakistani
dissidents. They are pursued by local killers and conspirators, some of them
with roots in Pakistan, whose sponsors remain remote.
Pakistani dissidents have been targeted in the US, the UK, the Netherlands
and France. The British court at Kingston-upon-Thames handed down the
conviction in nine months’ time because “conspiracy to murderer” is a serious
crime in Britain.
This has raised concerns in several governments in the West. A British court
on March 11 this year, convicted a youth for conspiring to murder a dissident
blogger after prosecution apprised it of likelihood of more targeted killings.
Mohammad Gohir Khan, a 31-year-old Briton with Pakistani roots, was
convicted for conspiring to kill Netherlands-based dissident blogger Ahmad
Waqass Goraya, who had fled Pakistan in 2017 after being abducted and
Khan received British pounds 100,000 with promise of more such hit
missions. The source of the money was unclear, but the court was told of the
payment into a Pakistani bank through ‘hundi’, the informal money
In January, a jury returned a unanimous verdict finding Khan guilty of
conspiring to kill Goraya in Rotterdam. During the trial, the prosecution
maintained that Khan was hired “by persons who appeared to be based in
“The financial rewards for his actions were believed to be significant, with a
payment of £100,000 on offer. At the time, the prosecution said, the
defendant was in significant debt, with no clear means of paying his creditors.
The jury was also told how a Pakistan-based middleman Muzamil allegedly
contacted Khan in 2021 with an offer to pay £80,000 for a ‘job’, while telling
him about his own commission of £20,000.
Khan accepted during the cross-examination that the communications with
Muzamil and the plot to murder the blogger were legitimate, but, apparently
under his lawyer’s advice, denied ever intending to murder Goraya.
During the trial, voice messages exchanged between Khan and Muzamil
showed that the middleman had referred to “future jobs and contracts” if the
Goraya hit was successful. He bragged that Khan could earn £20,000 –
£30,000 ‘per job’.
British and Dutch authorities, among other Europeans, have frequently
cautioned the Pakistani dissidents about danger to their lives. The Dutch
police had been informed by the Italian police of the arrest of an Egyptian in
a similar plot against me,” Goraya said.
In Pakistan, where the middleman Muzamil is said to be based, there is total
silence from authorities around the trial, Reuters said.
The larger picture is, indeed, murky. Media reports in several countries
where Pakistani dissidents have taken refuge say the threat is increasing.
After Canada, Sweden and the United States, the British authorities have
approached, or have been contacted, by Pakistani nationals, showing
concern for their personal safety.
In some cases, the British have issued what is called “Osman notice” that
refers to an earlier incident and the government’s response in the 1990s.
The dissidents, among them journalists, bloggers and analysts have
unanimously blamed the Pakistani military, especially the Inter-Services
intelligence (ISI) that has gained notoriety for operations abroad.
Scores have fled their homes after they have lost jobs, have been banned
from writing or broadcasting, after being picked up by ‘agencies’ – usually
toughies in civilian clothes — ostensibly for interrogation coupled with torture.