“Tell me the name of the agency that has detained Zahid Baloch. When those who have him admit he is in their custody, I will end my strike.” Lateef Johar
KARACHI: In the scorching heat outside Karachi Press Club, the Balochistan chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, sat next to a pale Lateef Johar and asked him to give up the hunger strike. “I have come to meet you and appeal to you to end your hunger strike,” he said to Johar. The chief minister had come to Karachi to especially meet Johar on Wednesday.
The student activist who has been on hunger strike for the past 38 days, however, refused to give in. In a low voice, he replied, “Tell me the name of the agency that has detained Zahid Baloch. When those who have him admit he is in their custody, I will end my strike.”
The chief minister became silent and helplessly looked at the crowd of journalists and activists who pressed him to blame the law enforcers for his abduction, and to let everyone know when he would be recovered.
But the official parried all these questions. “I can’t make promises that can’t be fulfilled,” he lamented. “But I wish to resolve the missing persons’ issue and hope Zahid Baloch will be found soon.”
Zahid Baloch, the chairperson of the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO) – Azad was allegedly picked up by law enforcers from Quetta on March 18.
“The Balochistan High Court has given orders for the registration of the FIR, but it has not been registered yet,” said an activist, Kareema Baloch. The chief minister said that he would look into it.
Dr Abdul Malik said that he knew Zahid Baloch very closely. “I have worked with him. Though we had our political differences, I knew him.” The chief minister said that he had been a member of the BSO and the organisation had played a major role in his election as the CM. When journalists asked him what he had done for the missing persons in Balochistan, he said, “You know all the problems Balochistan is facing. Zahid’s abduction is not in my information, but being the chief minister, I am responsible,” he admitted.
Turning towards Johar, he said that though the latter had the democratic right to protest, he wanted the hunger strike to end. Johar was, however, adamant to continue until Zahid’s whereabouts were known. “People have assured us several times but there have been no results,” he said.
Dr Abdul Malik Balock signed a petition regarding Zahid’s abduction that would be submitted to the United Nations. Meanwhile, Johar’s doctor also addressed the chief minister. “His blood pressure is low and his sugar level is dropping,” he said, referring to the medical complications.
Since the hunger strike started, Johar’s weight has dropped from 76kg to 54kg. “He gets a lot of headaches. He used to be a gentle speaker but now he doesn’t talk to anyone. He cannot drink a lot of water as he throws up.” said an activist. Other activists vowed to continue the struggle until their leader was found.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2014.