Gone missing: Two months on, family still struggles to find Baloch journalist

Haji Abdul Razaq Baloch family

KARACHI: Haji Abdul Razzaq Baloch, 42, made sure he attended every protest held for the people who went missing in Balochistan. “These are our brothers who have gone missing. Some day when I would be gone, you would have to do the same,” the tall man with a bushy moustache would say.

Little did he know that his time would come so soon. Two months ago, the journalist and activist went missing and his family has been desperately protesting to know his whereabouts.

“Is it a crime to write about the Baloch?” cried his burqa-clad sister Saeeda Sarbazi, while talking to The Express Tribune. “My brother was picked up because he wrote about how we are deprived of gas, how we belong to the richest province yet our people are begging on the streets, and how our children have no schools to go to.”

Baloch was on his way to work on his motorcycle when he went missing on March 24 near his home in Lyari. He worked as a subeditor for the Daily Tawar – an Urdu newspaper printed from Mastung, Balochistan – considered a nationalist publication that raises voice for Baloch rights. Though a kidnapping FIR 219/13 has been registered at the Chakiwara police station against his disappearance, the police have yet to take action.

Thirteen days after Baloch’s abduction, the newspaper’s bureau single-room office in Lea Market was torched, and their computers were taken away. Following the incident, the paper’s editor Khadim Lehri and other staff members have also gone into hiding.

The only bread earner of the family, Baloch would also work as a guard for a telecommunication tower. His disappearance has made the family live hand to mouth – with their crippled father confined to a charpoy, his sisters are struggling to make ends meet.

Baloch’s friend and a cameraman for the Vsh News said that the newspaper was often threatened because of its outspoken stance against the government. “It would point out how the Baloch are mistreated. Two years ago, another subeditor of this newspaper was killed.”

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Abdul Hai said that while they don’t have an exact number of Baloch being picked up from Karachi, such cases do come up frequently. On the other hand, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons stated that since the beginning of the year, 13 men have been picked from Balochistan, and their dead bodies found in Karachi.

“Whoever mobilises the Baloch people and actively speak for them goes missing and ends up dead,” said Hai. “Even in Karachi it is not difficult to pick up these men.”

Baloch’s sister Sarbazi wanted to clarify that Baloch are not demanding separation. “Yes, my brother did speak of Baloch rights but he loved his country,” he said. “No one celebrated Independence Day like my brother. He would bring loudspeakers and play national songs.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2013.

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