Courage under fire – Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


vbmplongmarch-islamabad

Walking up to 30 kilometers a day is no mean feat even for a hardy lot and here were those delicate and weak girls, an old man and ten-year-old boy

Mir Muhammad Ali TalpurMir Jalil Reiki Shaheed, son of Mama Abdul Qadeer Reiki, was abducted on February 13, 2009; he was the information secretary of the Baloch Republican Party. Mama Qadeer naturally strove to secure the release of his son because the systematic policy of ‘kill and dump’ had started in earnest and the severely mutilated bodies of Baloch activists had started appearing in Balochistan. All he got in return for his efforts to secure his son’s safety was false promises or threats. Realising that the state was hardly being challenged for its atrocities, he decided to start a protest against the inhuman and unjust abductions and killings of Baloch activists. The protest is now 2,287 days old. There was a token hunger strike protest outside the press clubs on July 28, 2009. Moreover, on September 27, 2009 the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organisation for the recovery of the missing Baloch, was formed with Mama Qadeer as vice chairman and Nasrullah Baloch, whose uncle Asghar Bangulzai was abducted in 2001, as chairman.

موت کے سائے تلے شجاعت

Mama Qadeer knocked on every possible door and explored every option to secure his son’s release; he was assured, threatened and cajoled but Jalil did not turn up. Then, on November 24, 2011, after 33 agonising months, his body was found. Apart from the inhuman torture meted out he had been shot three times through the heart, the heart his vicious enemies had been unable to subdue. Mama took Jalil’s son, Beauragh, to the funeral and told him how his father had died.

His token hunger strikes outside various press clubs, including in Karachi and Islamabad, were not even given a hearing. Instead, Mama Qadeer and others who had protested faced threats and harassment. The farce of Supreme Court (SC) hearings on the issue of missing persons was enacted and despite 100 plus hyped hearings, not a single person was charged leave alone prosecuted for the barbaric ‘kill and dump’ policy of political activists in Balochistan. The world and society here seemed and seem at peace despite the savage and inhumane torture and repression employed against the Baloch who rightfully demand their rights. Anyone the establishment labels as anti-state or terrorist here can be killed with impunity and no one protests for fear of being labelled a terrorist himself.

Mama Qadeer and all others who seek and strive for their rights belong to that unique class of people who, although knowing the dire consequences that standing up for truth and justice entail, are steadfast in their commitment to justice for their people. Mama, who has lost a son, knows the consequences all too well. Mama Qadeer understood that to highlight the plight of the missing and killed Baloch activists and the sufferings of their families, he would have to do something to awaken the people from the apathy enveloping them. He decided the best way was to take the plight of the missing and killed to the people as people were fearful or reluctant to solve the problem. Mama, along with Frazana Majeed (secretary general VBMP) whose brother Zakir Majeed, the vice chairman of the Baloch Students Organisation-Azad (BSO-Azad) had been abducted on June 8, 2009, Sammi Baloch, the daughter of Dr Deen Mohammad, abducted on June 28, 2009 and the ladies of other missing persons’ families on October 27, 2013 decided to walk from Quetta to Karachi to protest the disappearances and atrocities in Balochistan.

This march was not a march of Pajeros and Prados but the march of Balochistan’s real children, the salt of the earth who have suffered the loss of their dear ones because those brave souls had dared to demand their inalienable rights. The lead placard announcing this historical march was mounted on a wheelbarrow. It was a march of dedication and commitment of the relatives of the missing and dead for their loved ones. These were the steps of a journey that began on March 27, 1948 and will continue till the Baloch achieve their rights.

There were many doubters even among the friends who thought that this arduous journey could never be completed by the 70-plus old man, the 10-year-old Ali Haider, whose father Mohammad Ramzan had gone missing on July 14, 2010, and Baloch girls who for the first time embarked upon a journey fraught with uncertainty and dangers, a journey that was very public; the girls’ courage, needless to say, was exemplary in the face of the odds they faced in breaking taboos and challenging the brutal state bent upon liquidating all dissent through brutal force.

The journey was no bed of roses for this intrepid band of dedicated Baloch who did the Baloch nation proud with their courage, determination and tenacity. Walking up to 30 kilometers a day is no mean feat even for a hardy lot and here were those delicate and weak girls, an old man and ten-year-old boy. Anybody who dismisses the magnitude of such a difficult task should walk that distance to know what it takes to accomplish this. Apart from the fatigue and the inconvenience, most of them, unused to walking long and continuously, developed blisters and sores on their feet but these brave people remained undeterred.

There were threats against them to call off the march but they chose to ignore the threat to their lives for the love of the loved ones who were missing. Apart from physical discomfort, inconvenience and lack of privacy, there was always the uncertainty of where they would and could put up for the night as the people who hosted them were threatened by the authorities. That they persisted and overcame all the odds that came their way or that were thrown at them reflected courage under fire and belied the doubters as well as the enemy who put hurdles to thwart them, showing how determined the Baloch are, reaching Karachi on November 23 after 27 days of walking.

That these brave women, children and men persisted with their march despite the overwhelming odds makes this march more heroic, historic and iconic. True bravery and heroism are not dependent on a single valorous act but lie in perseverance and single mindedness in pursuit of a cause. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) once said: “It is not the strength but the duration of great sentiments that makes great men.” This underlines the overwhelming importance of consistency and persistence. The determination and courage under fire of the long marchers was indeed inspirational and set an example worth emulating.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

Courtesy: Daily Times

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