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The apparently drowning death of an internationally renowned Pakistani dissident raises anger, grief and doubt, the day after her body was found near downtown Toronto.
Police say they recovered the remains of Karima Mehrab on Monday. The 37-year-old activist, known as Karima Baloch, had been reported missing a day earlier.
The Toronto Police Service said in a statement that his death is being investigated as a “non-criminal” record, as there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances.
However, one of Ms. Mehrab’s comrades said in an interview with The Canadian Press that she had recently received death threats. He and his family are full of suspicion as to what really happened to him.
“Her husband received messages from strangers saying that they would give Karima a Christmas present that she would never forget,” reports Lateef Johar.
Police did not provide any details of her death, but according to Mr. Johar, officers told her family that she was found drowned in water.
“We respect what the police say, but we will never believe and never accept that it was an accident,” he said.
Karima Mehrab’s widower could not be reached on Tuesday.
Ms. Mehrab was a leader of the Baloch Student Organization, which advocates for the independence of the ethnically Baluch regions of Pakistan. The organization denounces human rights violations in the southwest of the country, where Baluch armed groups have been waging a separatist war against Pakistani security forces for years.
The Pakistani military and government firmly deny any human rights violations.
Ms. Mehrab fled Pakistan in 2015 amid death threats and terrorism charges, arriving in Canada in November of the same year, where she was granted refugee status.
Amnesty International’s South Asian branch said on Twitter that his death is “deeply shocking” and “must be investigated immediately and effectively.”
She is the second Baloch activist to be found dead this year. In May, journalist and refugee Sajid Hussain was found lifeless in a river in Sweden, weeks after his disappearance. Local police said his death could have been an accident or suicide, without ruling out the possibility of a criminal act.
In 2016, the BBC named Karima Mehrab in its annual list of 100 inspiring and influential women.