For younger Baloch, the problem is no longer about economic dividends but preserving national identity and independence.
For the past two weeks, 23-year-old Latif Johar has refused to eat in protest against the disappearance of his comrade, Zahid Baloch, one of at least hundreds of ethnic Baloch forcibly disappeared by Pakistani intelligence agencies. Johar, increasingly frail, is now hooked up to a drip at the open-air protest camp for missing persons in Pakistan’s metropolis, Karachi.
Baloch Students Organization-Azad (BSO-Azad) is an ethno-centric student organization fighting for the separation and freedom of Balochistan. Over 100 members of the organization have been reported missing, and the organization is still considered popular amongst Baloch students. On the 18th of March, Zahid Baloch, the chairperson of BSO-Azad was abducted and is now reported missing, like thousands of other Baloch.
I have taken a grave decision and it’s not without a cause. If not in life, maybe my death will make people understand that our fight is just. Latif Johar
KARACHI: Sitting in a camp outside the Karachi Press Club, Latif Johar, 23, has not eaten a morsel of food for the past 10 days now. A member of the Baloch Student Organisation-Azad (BSO), he has been on a hunger strike protesting the recent kidnapping of BSO chairman Zahid Baloch in Quetta.
Hailing from Naal in Khuzdar, Zahid Baloch was picked up on March 18. Zahid’s wife, who had also been at the camp a few days ago, has gone back to Quetta to lodge an FIR of her husband’s kidnapping, says Johar.
Wearing a dark grey shalwar kameez, dark circles form around his eyes and shoulders appear sagged but he holds himself erect as if in defiance while speaking about the unabated kidnapping of Baloch students in various districts and tehsils of Balochistan.
I am ready to die but I won’t give up. I am on a hunger strike till death.” Latif Johar
KARACHI: A weak Latif Johar lies flat on a thin mat outside the Karachi Press Club. A doctor checks his pulse as a drip runs through it. His eyes have turned yellow. It has been several days since he last touched food yet the thought of dying does not frighten the young man.
On Tuesday, Johar, 23, entered the eighth day of his hunger strike to demand the recovery of his leader, Zahid Baloch, who is the chairperson of the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO)-Azad. “We tried all means to raise our voice about our missing people,” he said. “We protested and leaders, such as Mama Qadeer, walked on for miles. I am now doing this to highlight our plight to the world.”
KARACHI: “We are students. Our weapons are pens and books,” says Latif Johar. He is sitting at a protest camp outside the Karachi Press Club, on a hunger strike till death, unless his missing party leader Zahid Baloch is returned.
“We do not believe in violence. We believe in fighting for our rights through democratic political means,” he says.
I am a student. Studying, writing, learning, exploring are my hobbies. But all this has become impossible for me, thanks to Pakistan. My friends disappear and end up dead dumped on empty street-sides with blood-curdling scars on their bodies. My schools and colleges are turned into cozy military barracks. Uniformed men with guns round the playgrounds where school kids would circle not so long ago. Libraries closed and librarians ‘missing’, they say.
Despite all this, I choose a difficult path of peaceful struggle rather than picking up a gun. I look at the world with hopeful eyes but in vain. Nobody seems to be caring. What should I do? Where should I go?