ISLAMABAD: “There were dead bodies found in Balochistan with Pakistan Zindabad carved into their skins,” Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur said on Saturday, at a seminar which had to be relocated to a different city for it to be held.
The seminar ‘Un-silencing Balochistan’ scheduled to be held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) on April 9 was cancelled allegedly in response to pressure from an intelligence agency.
While it was finally held at Kuch Khaas in Islamabad on Saturday, M. M Talpur was the only member left from the original panel which included Mama Qadeer, chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VMBP), VMBP General Secretary Farzana Majeed, Academic Aasim Sajjad Akhtar and Activist Sajjad Changezi and Daily Times Chief Editor Rashid Rahman.
The event on Saturday pulled a large crowd, including students and teachers from Lums, who criticised the varsity administration for bending under alleged state pressure.
Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur, a columnist and Baloch rights activist, was invited as the chief guest at the seminar. He said Balochistan is a sensitive issue that no one talks about. “The establishment has slowly taken away the liberty of Baloch people and without liberty, these people will die a spiritual death,” he said.
“It is fact that people have been killed and dumped in Balochistan. People such as Mama Qadeer claim over 23,000 people are missing in Balochistan but even Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, the interior minister in 2005, admitted that close to 4,000 Baloch were in custody,” he added.
“One can only imagine how many more would go missing in the next 10 years,” Mr Talpur said.
He said that history is witness to the resilience of the Baloch people. “Baloch have been labeled separatists and are being systematically killed,” he said.
Only one member of the original panel was present at the event
Mr Talpur said the people of Balochistan have faced numerous army operations against them. “One needs to look at history to understand the Baloch issue,” he said.
He rejected the idea that Baloch rulers do not want development in the province. “Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed during the dictatorship of Pervez Musharraf but even after his death, no development was initiated in Dera Bugti,” he said.
Most Sardars are working hand in glove with the establishment, leaving the people to suffer. “The Baloch suffer while their resources used by people of the other three provinces,” he said.
He lamented that Mama Qadeer walked for 106 days, travelling 3000 kilometers, but no one paid any heed because he was raising his voice for missing persons.
Mr Talpur said the people of Balochistan have never been truly represented. “Balochistan Chief Minister Dr Malik managed to get 4,000 votes in constituency of 74,000 registered voters,” he said.
Lums faculty member Taimur Rahman, who is Rashid Rahman’s son, told participants the seminar was scheduled to be held at Lums but two unknown persons visited the university management and following the meeting, the seminar was cancelled.
“I was told by the management the two people said the ISI Director General had given special instructions for the seminar to be cancelled. However, students saw the cancellation of the event, a violation of their academic independence and protested against it,” he said.
He said a campaign against Lums students was started on social media and the students responded by spreading the message over the same medium. “It was encouraging to see the support which poured in for Lums students from all over the world,” he said.
A researcher Roshaan Khattak, who has made a documentary on Balochistan, told Dawn that he was inspired by Mama Qadeer and decided to make a documentary on the issue.
“My documentary is 90-minutes long but I have over 100 hours of footage. I will upload it on the internet to spread awareness about the plight of the Baloch and to help researchers,” he said.
Nine minutes from the documentary were shown at the seminar, featuring interviews of a number of people including Pervez Musharraf and relatives of missing Baloch people.
Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2015