February 24, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Human rights organisations staged a protest in Karachi on Thursday and decried the impunity accorded to perpetrators of gender-based violence.
Organised by Aurat March in collaboration with other civil society organisations, the protest held outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) was also staged to mourn the victims who had lost their lives to acts of violence.
Clad in all-black attire, the participants chanted slogans such as “tez ho tez ho, jaddo jehad tez ho” [may our resistance be strong], and “zulm ke ye zaabte, hum nahi maantay” [we do not accept these acts of violence].
Protestors also raised their voice against enforced disappearances.
The protest comes days after bullet-riddled bodies of a woman and her two sons were found in a well in Balochistan’s Barkhan district, sparking outcry on social media and even in the provincial assembly. Provincial minister Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran has been arrested in the case.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Sammi Deen Baloch, human rights activist and daughter of a missing person, called for an end to state violence, enforced disappearances, and demanded the recovery of missing persons.
Referring to the Barkhan killings, she said: “This is not the first case of murder, genocide or forced abduction in Balochistan, or the first time a Sardar has been exposed like this. This is a trend that has existed for years.”
She regretted that the media only highlighted the phenomenon when Sardars were involved.
“When we march against the government they tell us that it is not the state which is responsible for the lack of progress in Balochistan, it is these Sardars and Nawabs,” she said, adding that there was no “acknowledgement” when the state was the perpetrator.
Transgender activist Shehzadi Rai spoke about the state’s inaction in cases concerning gender-based violence.
Referring to a bill seeking to make changes to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act 2018, Rai said: “Women, men and khawaja siras are being murdered. The country is on the brink of default, and in this situation, our government’s priorities are to take back the rights of khawaja sira people.”
She said that the bill sought to “cancel out our right to self-identification”. She said that two khawaja siras had been killed since the bill was taken up by the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights earlier this week.
“One at a dance event, the other by her own brother whom she had raised herself. He murdered her in the name of honour. Where is the state?” she asked.
“Pakistan used to be one of the most progressive countries for khawaja sira people, and today that country is among the most regressive. Please give us back our old Pakistan, the Pakistan of 2018, where we got our [right to] identity.”