The Long March for Balochistan

by Priya Ravichandran

The Protest and the Long March for the missing Balochs needs International support and attention.

The distance from Quetta in Balochistan province to Karachi in the Sindh province of Pakistan is 700 km. It takes 18000 abducted Balochs and more than a 1000 killed and dumped Balochs to get there.

The Pakistan Frontier Corps (FC) with support from the government of Pakistan, have been for more than a decade systematically murdering, maiming and torturing people and dumping them in various parts of the province. In a bid to highlight these atrocities and to perhaps have some attention turned to their disaster hit province, the people from the province have undertaken a march to Karachi.

Follow hash-tag on twitter: #VBMPLongMarch

Under the aegis of Voice for Baloch Missing Person (VBMP) men, women and children started walking on the 27th of October 2013. Today, on the 16th of November, they complete 20 days of walking almost 25 kms a day. Many of the people walking the 700 km stretch have been at the receiving end of untold violence, extreme brutishness and apathy from both national and international agencies. The media blackout by Pakistan has ensured that these people have little to no voice to talk about their plight on national platforms and very little support from outside organizations. The political and military establishment have made the areas around the province hard to reach for aid organizations and relief agencies. An entire province in essence has been isolated and cordoned off to the world and very few have taken notice.

The march comes on the back of a 1300+ day sit in protest that the VMBP undertook outside the Quetta press club. The sit in protest and the long march have been led by the Vice Chairman of the VMBP Abdul Qadeer Baloch whose own son was abducted on 2009 and found dead two years later. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry has found evidence against the FC and directed the government to take action. Nothing has come out of that. 592 bullet riddled bodies since 2010, 132 missing person cases and many more that have gone unreported according to the VMBP.

The lack of attention to this grueling march and to the state sponsored kill and dump policies is unconscionable. Willful ignorance of an ongoing genocide is unforgivable. The US, EU, UN and other countries have been very apathetic to the situation of the Balochs. India has also maintained a staunch silence on this issue. The silence is even more telling, given its very public stance on the issue of the Lankan Tamils. For these countries dealing with the many layers of a government that tends to blow hot or blow cold, has been complicated enough. Like Hina Baloch points out in her piece in Dawn

For most international powers, talking about Balochistan and the human rights abuses occurring there, adds to the complexity of dealing with Pakistan. With most western powers already in a dysfunctional relationship with a rapidly spiraling Pakistan, raising or discussing the Baloch cause is seen as not worth the headache nor does it, in the short run, directly affect their own national security interests.

At a time when governments around the middle east continue to turn their backs on their own people, it is easier to pretend that the government and the military complex in Pakistan are only doing this to defend itself against terrorism. It has ben easier for the US and other NATO powers to buy into the narrative that Pakistan has been suffering due to these seperatist movements. Unfortunately, this policy of turning a blind eye and the failure to bring Pakistan to task for violating the rights of its own people has resulted in more than 18000 people missing in the last 10 years and more and more people turning up dead with each passing day.

The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons are made of people who have lost a great deal in their lives to both man made and natural disaster. For the international community to ask more of their voice, more of their dignity and more of their lives in order to take notice and give them justice is not acceptable.

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