Police have released all the detainees, but did not cancel the FIRs registered against them after the marchers staged a sit-in, blocking traffic at Pakistan Chowk, in an attempt to convince the authorities that the long march was not against local authorities.
Residents of D.G. Khan in large numbers joined in as marchers travelled to Sangam Chowk, Gaddai Dera-Quetta Road and other neighbourhoods. People came out of their houses to show solidarity with participants of the long march.
Mahrang Baloch, an organiser, told Dawn that scores of D.G. Khan residents attended the protest to show solidarity with them. She said they were heading to Islamabad and had no reason to hold a sit-in if the marchers had not been taken into custody by police.
She said they were marching peacefully to demand release of ‘missing persons’ and end of alleged ‘extrajudicial killings’ in Balochistan. She said they would march towards Taunsa Sharif on their way to Islamabad on Tuesday morning if the situation did not worsen.
Ms Baloch said the Punjab administration had started registering false cases against those who welcomed the marchers in their respective areas. She demanded the withdrawal of cases against the protesters and the locals who expressed solidarity with them. She said they told the D.G. Khan district administration to stop harassing women as they did not want to stay in the district because they could not solve their issues.
While the police released the marchers and they ended their sit-in allowing resumption of road traffic, the FIRs registered against them had not been withdrawn or cancelled, she added.
Two days ago, police had picked up four Ghazi University students for organising a welcoming camp for the marchers. Shaukat Ali, Asif Leghari, Miraj Leghari, Abdullah Saleh and 10 others, including women, were detained for violation of Section 144 of Code of Criminal Procedure that was imposed by the district administration to prohibit public gatherings.
State violated constitutional right: HRCP
In a statement, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) strongly condemned the state’s use of excessive force against peaceful protesters in D.G. Khan, where members of the long march from Turbat to Islamabad were baton-charged by the police and many of their leaders, as well as local activists, arrested and their camp demolished.
The HRCP noted that the long march had been organised in protest against extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Balochistan, demanding that the state protect Baloch citizens’ right to life, liberty and due process as much as that of any other citizen. “In responding with force, the state has once again violated the protestors’ constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” it added.
The statement demanded that those arrested must be released unconditionally and the long march allowed to proceed to Islamabad, peacefully and unhindered.