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Balochistan Social-Media Activist Appears In Court After Disappearance

Bayazid Kharotai (file photo)
Bayazid Kharotai (file photo)

Authorities in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan have arrested a local social-media activist and newspaper columnist on charges of interfering in the work of police.

Bayazid Kharoti appeared before a court in the provincial capital, Quetta, on November 5 that ordered him remanded in custody for five days, his lawyer, Enayat Kasi, told RFE/RL.

Kasi said he had filed a bail application and that the request would be heard the next day.

The Pakistani media watchdog Freedom Network denounced what it called Kharoti's "unlawful arrest."

Kharoti's friends and family sources have said he went missing in Quetta at noon on November 4.

A spokesman for the Balochistan provincial government announced Kharoti's arrest on Twitter after news of his disappearance spread on social media.

The spokesman, Liaquat Shahwani, said that Kharoti is accused of illegally entering the headquarters of the paramilitary Levies forces in Quetta and of using inappropriate language after being ordered to leave.

"My brother is Kidnapped by unknown people I would like to request all the social activist and journalist to raise your voice," his younger brother, Basit Khan Kharoti, earlier wrote on Twitter.

Kharoti runs a Facebook page and WhatsApp group called "Choti Chiri" (Little Bird) and writes columns in Pakistani newspapers.

He often criticizes the government and security forces in Balochistan and reports on alleged corruption.

Balochistan's government issued a statement on August 5 ordering government employees to stay away from social media pages and WhatsApp groups that allegedly spread "misinformation and propaganda" against the provincial government.

Kharoti at the time told RFE/RL that he was raising issues Balochistan is facing because Pakistan's national media did not pay enough attention to the province's problems.

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