A protest long march of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) led by Mama Qadir Reki, vice chairman of VBMP, with as many as 20 families, including women and children, carrying placards, photographs of missing persons and banners inscribed with slogans in support of their demands started their journey from Quetta Press Club on Sunday 27th; it will culminate with a sit-in at Karachi Press Club. Many relatives even fear protesting in fear of further retribution. This isn’t a march to secure justice because the relatives of missing and dead had sought all avenues but were let down by all including the Supreme Court (SC) which has been long on rhetoric and miserably short on action. This 700 plus kilometer journey which the relatives of the missing and dead have undertaken is to highlight the injustices to Baloch people. The agencies, the army and Frontier Corps (FC) naturally couldn’t be expected to provide justice because even the most partial SC reluctantly admits that these are responsible for the missing and the mutilated dead. The civil society is expected to stand up for human rights violation but their enthusiasm regarding missing Baloch persons is quite uninspiring.
This march isn’t a march of Pajeros and Prados it is a march of the real children of Balochistan’s soil, the salt of the earth who have suffered loss of their dear ones because those brave souls had dared to demand their inalienable rights. The lead placard announcing this historical march is carried on a wheelbarrow. This march is about dedication and commitment of the relatives of missing and dead to their loved ones. This isn’t a random march because this journey has been going on for more than 1300 days and this march is simply another aspect of it. Imagine the pain of relatives who for the last four years have given up their normal lives to struggle for their loved ones recovery. The VBMP protest camp is always manned and the establishment has tried threats, promises and cajoling to make them give up but they have persisted with a fierce determination in spite of knowing that justice will not come from the perpetrators who are as the rulers here as well.
If you would know what prompts this protest in Balochistan you may understand this protest march better. I suppose a few examples will do; when body of Sangat Sana, a member of the central committee of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) formerly chairman of Baloch Student Organization (BSO-Azad) who was whisked away from the Kolpur area in Bolan December 8, 2008 was found on February 13, 2012 from Murgab, Turbat, it apart from torture had 28 bullets wounds on his chest and head. Sana belonged to a rich and influential tribal family but opted to throw in his lot with those who sought better destiny for their nation. He could have lived long had he compromised the trust that his friends had reposed in him; unable to break and destroy his determination and dedication his vicious enemies set about meticulously to torture his body for four long years. Defeated in their purpose they showed their evil viciousness by firing 28 bullets into his head and torso.
Mama Qadeer is surely a brave and dedicated person he is there because his son Jalil Reiki, information secretary of Baloch Republican Party, was taken away by the agencies on February 13, 2009 who believed in and worked for achievement of rights of Baloch. Mama Qadeer knocked every possible door and explored every option for securing his son’s relief; he was assured, threatened and cajoled but Jalil did not turn up. For thirty three months he was missing then at end of November 2011 came the news that his body had been found. Apart from the inhuman torture meted out he had been shot three times in his heart; the heart which his vicious enemies had been unable to subdue. Jalil’s son carries the picture of his father at the head of this march.
Zakir Majeed Baloch, a senior office holder of the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO– Azad), was picked up from Mastung on June 8, 2009 and has been missing since. His elder sister Farzana Majeed instead of living a normal has been forced by his disappearance spend most of her time to VBMP protest camp and other forums. Saman Baloch too whose father Doctor Deen Mohammed was picked up on 28 June, 2009 has given up normal life as she strives to seek knowledge of her father’s fate as does Farzana for her brother’s. Jalil Reiki’s family too stopped having a normal life after he went missing and became not missing. The mothers of Mohammad Nabi, Mohammad Khan, Faiz Mohammad, Khuda Dad Marris who were killed by agencies after abduction being tribeswomen do not attend camps but suffer similarly.
The number of my students and friends who have been victims of the establishment’s ‘dirty war’ since 2005 is around twenty now and include Zaman Khan Marri and Raza Jahangir aka Sheymureed Baloch the Secretary General of Baloch Students Organization (BSO) Azad. While among the many missing are Ali Khan Marri, a gunsmith par excellence, and Dr. Akbar Marri. The list and pain keep increasing.
Thirty five years have passed since April 30, 1977, when 14 mothers whose sons and daughters had been disappeared by Argentina’s military rulers, defying the military regime’s terror, gathered to protest at ‘Plaza de Mayo’ in Buenos Aires. Their love for their children overrode their fear for personal safety. Their defiance initiated a movement for recovery of missing. They still gather at Plaza de Mayo every Thursday to remind the world of their missing children. For a mother, a sister or a relative there never is a closure of suffering. Whenever I am in Karachi I go to pay respects to 92-year-old mother of my comrade ‘Johnny’ Duleep Dass who along with Sher Ali Marri was picked up by army intelligence at Belpat in 1975 and never heard of again. She still believes he is alive and always asks, “How’s my Johnny?” The answer is with the perpetrators but they enjoy immunity and they refuse to answer.
This isn’t an ordinary march because it is the expression of the pain and sufferings of the families of the many thousands missing and of 700 plus who have been victims of death squads and who suffer in silence. Each step of the protestors is an indictment of the ‘dirty war’ that has been unleashed against the Baloch so that the Baloch resources can be remorselessly plundered and the 65 years of injustices perpetrated by the Pakistani establishment on excuse of ‘national interest’ and involvement of ‘foreign hands’. Hopefully this historic protest march led by Mama Qadeer will like the movement of mothers of ‘Plaza de Mayo’ will at least awaken those who seem oblivious to Baloch sufferings.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org