Journalists and Pakistani rights groups have called on Swedish authorities to step up efforts to find missing journalist Sajid Hussain Baloch, who disappeared from the Swedish city of Uppsala on March 2.
Baloch, 32, was last seen riding a train in Stockholm on his way to Uppsala, and Swedish police filed his missing case the next day, according to the Paris-based non-governmental organization, Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Baloch’s relatives claim that the Swedish government has not taken the disappearance seriously and is concerned about Baloch’s life. Wajid Baloch, the missing journalist’s brother, told DW: “The family is very concerned about Sajid’s safety and is angry at the slow pace of the investigation. There are so many things that can help find him.”
He added, “If something happens to our brother, then the Swedish police must be ready to be blamed because we have done everything to make them aware of the seriousness of this problem.”
The RSF said it was possible that the reporter, who reported violations of Pakistan’s human rights, had been abducted “by order of the Pakistani intelligence agency.”
Baloch, who is also a master’s student specializing in Iran at a university in Uppsala, has lived in Stockholm due to the lack of rooms available at Uppsala. He then found an empty room and planned to move there on March 2 but was lost the same day.
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Pakistan separatist rebellion
Baloch settled in Sweden in 2017 after escaping from Pakistan’s Balochistan province in 2012.
Balochistan – the largest province in the country by region – borders Afghanistan and Iran. The region has faced various levels of rebellion and witnessed a number of terror attacks in the past 15 years.
The province has witnessed the presence of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, IS militants, and other extremist groups. Meanwhile, Baloch separatists have fought against the Pakistani state, trying to separate what they see as their homeland from the Islamic Republic.
Human rights groups accuse the Pakistani government, including the military and intelligence agents, of human rights violations and enforced disappearances. Thousands, including political activists, have been missing for years. Islamabad has strongly rejected the claim, accusing the great India of fomenting separatist chaos in the province.
The suppression of freedom of speech
The father of two children, Sajid Baloch has lived in exile in several countries before seeking asylum in Sweden. He fled Pakistan after receiving threats related to his report on the separatist conflict in Balochistan.
Baloch has worked for leading English-language daily in Pakistan, including The News and The Daily Times. He is also editor in chief of the Balochistan Times, a news website covering human rights violations and drug smuggling in the province. The news platform is no longer accessible in Pakistan.
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Asad Butt, an officer at the Pakistan Human Rights Commission – an independent rights guard dog – was confused as to why Swedish authorities could not track Baloch.
“Sweden is a very good democracy where the issue of human rights is really important,” Butt said. “We urge the Swedish government to make a safe recovery effort in addition to demanding that the Pakistani government handle this issue with Stockholm because the missing journalists are also our citizens,” he said.
Call to speed up investigation
The Federal Union of Pakistan Journalists also demanded that the Swedish government increase its efforts to track down Baloch.
In a joint statement, union president Shahzada Zuilfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi said the slow progress of the investigation in Sweden raised concerns among the Pakistani journalist community. They urged Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry to offer support in finding Baloch by cooperating with Swedish authorities.
Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) based in New York has also called on Swedish police to speed up its investigation.
“Swedish police must step up efforts to find Sajid Hussain Baloch … The disappearance of a journalist who focuses on one of Pakistan’s most sensitive issues – human rights in Balochistan – and who fled Pakistan because of the threats it poses – especially alarming,” Steven Butler , CPJ Coordinator for the Asian Program, said in a statement issued on 30 March.
Baloch’s family and friends have created an online campaign to help search.
Taj Baloch, a close friend of the missing journalist, told DW: “He was with me until midday 2 March and I could never imagine that he would disappear in this country. He was a non-political man who had a talent for language and literature. It’s hard to understand the factors that caused him to disappear. “
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