LAHORE: Under a tent in a small green belt across the Lahore Press Club, young students from Balochistan studying at various public universities across Lahore were on a hunger strike from 10 am to 10 pm on Wednesday. They demanded the release of all missing persons, including Baloch Student Organization (Azad) Chairman Zahid Baloch who disappeared on March 18.
Behind the banner of the Baloch Itthead Pakistan, the hunger camp included around two dozen students from Balochistan and rights activists. Hailing from Zhob, Mastung and Musakhel and between 23 and 26 years, this was the first time many of the students had actively participated in demanding the release of missing persons.
They also expressed solidarity with Lateef Johar, who has been on a hunger strike for 22 days in Karachi. Students and activists have held similar camps in other cities including Islamabad, Multan, Layyah, Dera Ghazi Khan and Taunsa.
“The issue of missing persons is plaguing the entire country, but the situation is critical in Balochistan,” said Kashif*, a 23-year-old Punjab University student. “In the presence of a judicial system, there is absolutely no justification for carrying out such activities,” he said.
According to the students present, over 1,000 students from Balochistan were studying in Lahore who did not have a formal platform to organise themselves. “We are here to study, not to engage in any political activity…but the recent course of events has forced us to voice our concerns,” Nabeel*, another student from Balochistan said.
Naveed*, a 26-year-old student of Punjab University pointed towards a ‘social disconnect’ in Punjab that prevented people from understanding the seriousness of the issue.
Sitting amongst the students, Lal Mohammad Baloch demanded the recovery of his son Nauman Ali who has been missing for over 15 months. He was abducted near Hyderabad travelling with his mother from Karachi to Mirpur Khas. Baloch had been living in Lyari in Karachi, and fled the city after he was threatened. “My son was not involved in any political activity,” claimed Baloch.
Members of the Awami Workers Party were also part of the hunger strike. “The government should ensure the safe release of all abducted and missing persons. Let the judicial process take its course and present these people in court,” AWP Lahore General Secretray Shazia Khan said.
*NAMES HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE STUDENTS’ IDENTITY.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2014.