Pakistan has been violating Baloch human rights including their right to life and freedom since it occupied Balochistan in March 1948. For over 60 years of occupation, the people of Balochistan have continued their resistance against the occupiers. Baloch freedom movement has had its ups and down but it has never stopped.
In 1970s when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto started offensives against the Baloch people there was almost a total media blackout. The death and destructions, expulsion of people from their homes, pillage of villages and mass disappearances went unnoticed. One of the main pillars of Pakistan is its media. The media in Pakistan, by and large, is an instrument of army and security agencies. Their role in the state imposed war on Balochistan has always been consistent. They have always followed the line of the security forces.
The new chapter of struggle, the preparation of which, started around late 1980s is undoubtedly the continuation of the war of liberation initiated by Prince Abdul Karim Baloch and those who fought against British imperial forces in the previous decades. The legacy of the liberation struggle was later pursued by Nauroz Khan, Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Dr Khalid, Akbar Bugti, Mir Balach Marri and thousands of Baloch forerunners and living legends. The new Baloch national liberation dawned when the young Baloch assessed the results of our past struggles carefully and the way forward. In their assessment they realised that for an effective and successful liberation movement there had to be a strategic change of direction. Hyrbyair Marri’s role in this respect has been very significant. The movement got its national dimension for the first time. This new phase is indestructible and will eventually lead to Balochistan’s independence.
In 1999 when Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf seized power his first target was Balochistan. He declared a war against Baloch people across Balochistan by arresting prominent Baloch leaders and threating others to hit them in way they would not know what would hit them. He threatened the Baloch that it was not 70s forgetting the fact that it was not 70s for Baloch either. Baloch youth were prepared and expecting what Musharraf initiated. He started military offensives targeting first Marri and Bugti regions. Pakistani army and state thought that would be the end of the Baloch. But it turned out to be the beginning of the end of Punjabi colonialism in Balochistan. The movement spread fast to all corners of eastern occupied Balochistan.
Unable to face the Baloch resistance organisations and Baloch freedom fighters the Pakistani army unleashed their anger on Baloch civilian population. Hundreds including women and children have been killed due to Pakistan Air Force’s indiscriminate bombardment, thousands have been arrested and disappeared and several thousand have been forcefully displaced from their native homes.
The resistance this time is more organised, widespread and better equipped than it was in 70s. The Baloch youths’ reaction to Musharraf’s imposed war was swift and resilient. The arrogant military general instead of realising his mistake continued his killing spree, abductions and displacement of Baloch people. Thousands Baloch activist were abducted and made disappeared by his regime. Aftab Sherpao, his interior minister, had admitted the arrest of 4000 Baloch activists. The number of disappeared Baloch now ranges between 15000 -18000.
It was these growing abductions of Baloch activists followed by in-custody killings that compelled the families of these victims to set up an organisation for a peaceful and democratic campaign for the release of their loved ones. The campaign became so urgent especially from 2009 onwards when Pakistan military started its systematic kill and dump policy. In April 2009 within a week of abducting three well-known Baloch political leaders Ghulam Mohammad Baloch, Lala Munir Baloch and Sher Mohammad were murdered under-custody – their bodies were found in Murgaap area of Turbat in Balochistan. This incident set up a trend about the victims of this heinous policy, after abducting them they are kept in isolation and tortured in many cases to death or being killed in cold-blood. The official Pakistani abductors then dump their mutilated bodies in deserted areas or road sides.
On 13 February 2009 Pakistan army and secret agencies abducted Jalil Reki Baloch from Saryab Road area in Quetta. Mr Jalil Reki was son of Abdul Qadeer Reki, the Vice chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. He was also a senior leader of Baloch Republican Party. It was presumably this incident that compelled Qadeer Baloch to rally other families to form an organisation – the Voice of the Baloch Missing Persons. The VBMP comprises the family members of abducted Baloch activists and it is trying to collect the data of all abducted and extra-judicially killed Baloch persons. They exhausted all democratic means of struggle including peaceful protests, knocking the doors of judiciary and going from one police station to another. They have also started a token hunger strike and camped outside the Quetta, Islamabad and Karachi Press Clubs. Their protest has been consistent and they are determined to achieve their objective which is to fight for the safe recovery and release of the enforced-disappeared persons.
Pakistan institutions including the judiciary and the Supreme Court of Pakistan have miserably failed to deliver justice to the families of abducted Baloch. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons has lost faith in Pakistan’s judiciary and they rejected all the judicial commissions that have been set to supposedly find out about the fate of missing persons. They now pinned their hopes to the wider world including the UN and international media to help them bring their loved ones back home.
In an interview with Daily Tawar Qadeer Baloch said the VBMP has succeeded in internationalising the issue of enforced-disappearances in Balochistan. As result of VBMP protest a team of UN WGEID (Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances) visited Pakistan and Balochistan in September 2012. This was the first ever visit of a high level UN mission to visit Balochistan in relation to enforced-disappearances. They have had detailed interviews with leaders of Voice for Baloch Missing persons and families of the victims.
On 26 October 2013 the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons announced a long march from Quetta to Karachi to make their voice heard. Several Baloch men, women and children are participating in this walk to find out the truth about fate of the enforced-disappeared Baloch activists. Baloch youth are terming this march a historical step in Baloch struggle. Almost all the Baloch pro-freedom political parties and leaders have announced their support for the long march. The response from the people on way has been overwhelming and the participants of march are being greeted as heroes.
Yesterday the march reached to Surab and visited the rest place of Qadeer Baloch’s son Jalil Reki. Large number of Baloch families and tribal elders joined them to continue their journey towards Karachi. At Khaliq Abad area Qadeer Baloch and Banuk Farzana Majeed Baloch, the sister of abducted Zakir Majeed Baloch addressed the participants of the protest. Farzana Baloch strongly criticised the electronic and print media for not giving coverage to their long march. She said: “The media should tell us what our fault is and why they are ignoring our march for the recovery of our loved ones. We have been marching for past eight days but the media is completely silent and by ignoring our peaceful and democratic protest the media is pushing us against the wall.”
Qadeer Baloch told the participants that many people were bothered by the popularity of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons long march and they have started to pressurise families of the participants, adding that: “houses of several people have been raided for supporting the long march.” He also said: “Those who thought we will get tired in a day or two should know that blood is gashing from feet of our sisters and daughters but they are determined to continue the march at all costs.”
The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons had already recorded a history by completing 1311 days of their peaceful and democratic protest for the safe recovery of abducted Baloch activists. Their decision for a long march from Quetta to Karachi has made it a unique protest in the history of Balochistan. Baloch should be proud of this 70 year old man, Mama Qadeer, who has embarked on a journey that many of us could not do. Baloch should also salute their brave sisters Farzana Majeed, Bibi Gul Baloch of BHRO (Baloch Human Rights Organisation) and the rest of the #VBMPLongMarch team for their commitment and dedication.
Those of us away from Balochistan can also be a part of this protest by joining the twitter and Facebook campaign using hashtag #VBMPLongMarch to show our commitment with Balochistan and our solidarity with the families of enforced-disappeared Baloch and martyrs of liberation struggle.
Faiz M Baluch is a student of journalism at Metropolitan University in London and a human rights activist affiliated with International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. He tweets at, twitter.com/FaizMBaluch and can be contacted at FMBaluch@gmail.com