Police in Toronto said Tuesday they are not treating the death of a prominent Pakistani dissident as suspicious. Authorities said the body of 37-year-old Karima Mehrab was found near Toronto’s downtown waterfront Monday, a day after she had been reported missing.
“It is currently being investigated as a non-criminal death and there are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances,” Toronto police spokeswoman Caroline de Kloet said.
Mehrab, also known as Karima Baloch, was granted asylum in Canada in 2016. Police said she was known to frequent Toronto’s waterfront and island areas.
Mehrab was a vocal critic of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, which are often accused by human rights activists of abducting activists in the country’s Baluchistan province and elsewhere in Pakistan.
She for years had campaigned for those people who go missing in Pakistan, and her death alarmed human rights activists
“The death of activist #KarimaBaloch in Toronto, Canada is deeply shocking and must be immediately and effectively investigated. The perpetrators must be brought to justice without recourse to the death penalty,” Amnesty International South Asia said in a tweet.
Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan has for years been the scene of a low-level insurgency by small separatist groups and nationalists who complain of discrimination and demand a fairer share of their province’s resources and wealth.
Separatists frequently target security forces in Baluchistan, prompting authorities to detain suspects. Human rights activists often blame security forces of illegally holding people. Such detainees are usually not charged and do not appear in court, which has drawn protests from their families.
Lateef Johar, a close friend and fellow activist, said he did not believe it was suicide or an accident. “Her husband showed me some messages that he got a few days ago. It was a message they will send a Christmas gift to Karima that she will never forget, and other related messages, too,” Johar said.
He said police told them they found her body in water close to Toronto Centre Island. “Her family and I can’t believe that it was an accident or something else as we know she was threatened; her friends and family members were previously were abducted and killed,” Johar said.
He said he didn’t think she suffered from depression but was prescribed sleeping pills recently. He said she was very strong.
“She has enemies that are the state,” he said. Pakistan’s High Commission in Canada said in a statement it approached the Canadian government to find out the cause of death. Associated Press writer Ahmed Munir in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.—AP