Sri Lankan activists call on Pakistan to release fisherfolk rights activist
A well-known trade unionist and head of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Saeed Baloch was arrested in Karachi, and is currently being held at a secret location. No formal charges have been laid against him, but under Pakistani law, anyone suspected of terrorist activity can be locked up for up to three months without charges being laid. Currently, three fisherfolk activists are languishing in Pakistani jails.
Colombo (AsiaNews) – About 50 people, all activists and members of Sri Lankan NGOs, gathered yesterday afternoon in front of Pakistan’s High Commission in Colombo to protest the arrest and detention of Saeed Baloch, general secretary of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF).
Pakistani Special Forces arrested Mr Baloch on 16 January in Karachi and since then he has been held without being charged formally.
"Saheed Baloch is a prominent social activist and PFF secretary,” Herman Kumara, special envoy of the World Forum of Fisher People (WFFP), told AsiaNews.
The PFF” is an organisation committed to strengthening the social, economic and political rights of fishermen and local indigenous communities in Pakistan."
Baloch, who is a member of the Fishermen Cooperative Society, is detained at an undisclosed location, Kumara noted. "Under the Anti-Terrorism Act, rangers are allowed to detain a person for up to three months even without charge, if the accused is suspected in connection with terrorism."
National Fisheries Solidarity movement organised yesterday’s peaceful protest, bringing together various other groups. Activists also signed a petition that was handed over to an official at the Pakistani High Commission.
The appeal calls on Pakistan’s prime minister “to take immediate steps for the release of Saeed Baloch". The official said that he would bring the petition to the attention of the competent authorities.
The arrest of the Pakistani activist is the latest in a series of detentions that involve other fisherfolk activists. In June 2015, Pakistani forces arrested the directors of the Fishermen Cooperative Society – Qamar Sultan Siddiqui, Muhammad Khan Chachar and Rana Shahid – on charges of extortion, murder, corruption and criminal association.