Unheeded cry for help: March for the ‘missing’

DAWN.COM Editorial

IT constitutes a picture that any society would find unbearably moving — if that society still had it in itself to care: a group of some two dozen people, mainly women and children, resolutely traversing on foot the long and arduous terrain from Quetta to Karachi. Led by Mama Qadeer Baloch, they clutch pictures of loved ones who have ‘gone missing’, a euphemism for men thought to have been illegally apprehended and detained by the shadowy intelligence and security apparatus. The march has been undertaken by the advocacy group Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. Why? Because despite the ‘missing persons’ having been an issue for several years now, despite sporadic initiatives by various parties and the mouthing of good intentions, despite the Supreme Court’s instructions, there has been no meaningful progress. Mutilated bodies of men continue to be found dumped across the province, and even in Karachi; calls for the security establishment to disclose the facts go ignored — as does the plight of the families of the missing by both state and citizenry that seem to have washed their hands of Balochistan and its many legitimate grievances.

Who will really be to blame if things continue to go from bad to worse in Balochistan? Those that resort to extra-judicial detention and killings, of course; but must not a fair proportion of the blame be shouldered by a citizenry and state bureaucracy that shies away from looking gross injustice in the eye, simply because those suffering do not constitute an influential lobby in the corridors that matter? Such is the disillusionment of the VBMP that the marchers refused to speak even to a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: “They hear us out but they don’t do anything,” said one of the activists. One of the marchers said that “If nobody listens to us in Karachi, I’ll go to Islamabad. If nothing happens there, I’ll go on foot to the UN headquarters.” What will it take to make Pakistanis care?

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