Missing Pakistani dissident Karima Mehrab found dead in Toronto

The body of a Pakistani activist who fought for the rights of the Baloch people has been found in Toronto, in what police are calling a "non-criminal death."

Toronto police say they do not suspect foul play in the death of Karima Mehrab

Karima Mehrab was found dead on Monday, one day after she was reported missing. (Toronto Police Service)

The High Commission for Pakistan in Canada says it wants to know how a Pakistani dissident living in exile in Toronto died earlier this week.

Toronto police say the body of Karima Mehrab, 37, was discovered Monday morning after she'd gone missing a day earlier. Mehrab was last seen alive on Sunday near Queens Quay West and Bay Street.

Police say they do not suspect criminal activity in her death.

"The Pakistan High Commission in Canada approached the Canadian government to know the cause of her death," the high commission said in a statement. "An official response in this regard is still awaited."

CBC News asked the federal government if it would consider intervening in the investigation. A spokesperson for the Office of Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness did not respond to that question, instead offering condolences to Mehrab's family.

An investigation is currently underway in this case, led by the Toronto Police Service. As the investigation continues, they will be able to provide additional information as it becomes available," spokesperson Mary-Liz Power said.

The Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness instead offered condolences to her family. 
Johar says they plan to send her body back to Pakistan.

Activist had received death threats, friend says

A close friend and fellow activist told The Canadian Press that Mehrab had recently received death threats, and he and her family were deeply suspicious about what had happened to her.

While police offered no details about the death, Lateef Johar said officers had told her family she was found drowned in the water.

"It is currently being investigated as a non-criminal death," Toronto police said in a statement. "There are not believed to be any suspicious circumstances."

Johar, who spent time with Mehrab last week in a library at the University of Toronto, where she was taking first-year courses, said she came to Canada to find safety.

"We respect whatever the police says but we will never believe and accept that it was an accident," Johar said. "She was a brave woman."

Critical of Pakistan's government

Also known as Karima Baloch, Mehrab fled Pakistan in 2015 amid terrorism charges and death threats, arriving in November that year in Canada, where she successfully applied for refugee status. On a day of her asylum hearing, Johar said, the body of her uncle — believed abducted by the military 18 months earlier — was found in Pakistan.

WATCH | Friends say Karima Mehrab recently received death threats:

Friends say Karima Mehrab recently received death threats

2 years ago
Duration 1:52
A well-known Pakistani activist living in exile in Toronto has been found dead. Police don’t suspect foul play in the death of Karima Mehrab, also known as Karima Baloch, but friends and fellow Balochi independence activists say she recently received death threats, and two of her uncles — both activists — previously died under suspicious circumstances.

Mehrab's husband, who Johar said had arrived in Canada for a visit two weeks ago from the United Kingdom, could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Mehrab had been critical of Pakistan's government and active in the struggle for autonomy in Balochistan, in western Pakistan, and continued her activism in Canada. 

She was also the former head of the Baloch Students Organization — a group that advocates for the independence of Pakistan's ethnic Baloch areas in the country's southwest and is banned in Pakistan.

The group accuses Pakistani authorities of human rights atrocities in the region, where armed Baloch groups have been fighting a years-long separatist war against Pakistani security forces.

'Deeply shocking,' rights organization says

Pakistan's military and government have steadfastly denied any rights abuses.

Bob Rae, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, said he had talked to Mehrab about the "human rights situation affecting many of her friends and family.

"I am deeply saddened to learn of her death," Rae said on social media.

Amnesty International South Asia called Mehrab's death "deeply shocking," saying on Twitter "it must be immediately and effectively investigated."

With files from The Canadian Press