The grueling historic long march by the relatives of Baloch missing persons and extra-judicially killed persons having started on October 27th finally reached Karachi on the 22nd of November. They spent 27 days on the road walking thirty kilometers or more daily without a break. They were no extreme sports practitioners who would easily survive the rigors of this walk but were ordinary folk women, children and men, Mama Qadeer is 70 year old and Ali Haider the wheelbarrow boy 10 years old, who survived this bitter test of their love and respect for their loved ones disappeared or killed by the Pakistani state under a systematic vicious ‘dirty war’ of which Baloch are victims. The blisters, the aches, the inconvenience, the cold, the blazing autumn sun did not deter these brave souls from surpassing Gandhi’s 390 kilometer Salt March of 1930. This march not only proved their love for their relatives but also their dedication to the cause those relatives died and disappeared for. Their march may be over but they and their supporters understand that the journey is far from over.
What went through their minds is certainly quite difficult to guess specially keeping in view the ample threats by establishment and the apathy of the Pakistani media they had to face and overcome. The media here goes into overdrive on the pettiest and most trifling of issues but refused to see the Baloch marching for their relatives. The state narrative has branded the Baloch struggle as anti-Pakistani and this has put mental curbs on even those who would like to express humanitarian support for the Baloch. Wherever this curb weakens physical obstacles are raised to deter people from expressing support or projecting the Baloch cause. 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 doesn’t depend on a single act of valour but lies in perseverance and single mindedness in pursuit of a cause. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) the German philosopher and poet’s axiomatic quote “It is not the strength but the duration of great sentiments that makes great men” underlines the overwhelming importance of consistency and persistence. The determination shown by the long marchers is indeed inspirational. The Baloch have continued to struggle for last 65 years.
I presume that a thought like the one expressed by a Mir Taqi Mir couplet must have reverberated constantly in their mind because they fully understood that though they are the first ones to undertake this journey they won’t be the last ones. Mir’s couplet goes thus:
Tez Rakhna Sar-e-Har Khaar Ko Aye Dasht-e-Junoon
Shaayed Aa Jaaey Koyi Aablaa Paa Meray Baad.
‘O’ ye the terrifying plains of possessed ones, Keep sharp your thorns forever
Perchance others as obsessed and blistered feet as us, will need their favour.
It isn’t ever easy to awaken the slumbering compassion of those who haven’t suffered what you have had to undergo and suffer. Humanity is at its best when it feels unrelated pain of those they do not even know but care for it simply on grounds that it is another human suffering due to injustices. The society here, apart from breakdown of mores has unfortunately become increasingly dehumanized because of obsession with religion which in theory should have created a more humane population.
A ‘qatta’ of Sheikh Saadi explains brilliantly and fully this apathy.
“Guftan Az Zanboor Bay Hasil bood
Ba Yakay Dar Umray Khud Na Khurda Naish
Ta Tara Hall e Na bashad Hamcho Maa
Hall e Maa Bashad Tara Afsana Paish
Lamenting the hornet’s sting pain is surely pointless
To those who have neither seen pain nor sadness
For unless they suffer your agony and despondence
All your lamentations will be in vain and meaningless.
The people have become insensitive to pain of others and it was for this reason that someone rightly said if you are not feeling the pain of others then certainly something is wrong with you.
Mama Qadeer and all the others who marched with him including Ali Haider the boy who pushed the wheelbarrow all the way have suffered at hands of Pakistani state and continue to suffer the pain of their missing and dead relatives. There is no closure to their agony and there never will be because though death of loved ones is accepted by all human beings but the manner which it comes can never be forgotten and this is what makes lives of thousands of Baloch families a living hell.
Quite expectedly the middle-class Dr. Malik busy appeasing his masters reportedly ridiculed this iconic long march of Baloch as a seasonal one whereby Baloch move to warmer climes in winters. He claims to be working 14 hours a day, must be having a terrible time but it doesn’t show. A fortnight ago the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) released the latest data of damage in Awaran quake; it says a total of 46,756 houses were damaged in the earthquake including 32,638 completely and 14,118 partially. His appeals for UNO help were rejected by his mentors. There were no expectations from him but he hasn’t even lived up to what he claimed he would do but then survivalists are never known for their spine or truthfulness; they survive at cost of self respect. He has failed Baloch people on all counts.
The Local Government polls to be held on December 7t h are as farcical as those that made him the chief minister. Some 2,332 candidates have been elected unopposed in Balochistan and only 4,350 seats will be contested; not a single candidate had filed nomination papers for 508 seats making this election a complete farce. Of Awaran’s 121 town committee, union and district council seats only 21 candidates filed nomination papers and many seats in Kech district remain vacant and this despite the heavy presence of army and Frontier Corps (FC) there. Baloch are no longer interested in charades which bring the ilk of Dr. Malik to fore.
The participants of the long march, their relatives and Baloch in general knew beforehand that the institutions which are responsible for the disappearances and extra-judicial killings will not relent and those institutions and organizations like the Supreme Court making a show of their concern for the missing and killed do not want to step on sensitive toes and are content with continuing their charade of helping recover the missing. But this doesn’t dampen the Baloch spirit and determination to secure their rights. Their dreams are not of the sort which would evaporate with slightest heat.
I end my piece with a couplet of poet Aitbar Sajid ghazal I found on Net which depicts the mindset of those determined to achieve their goal and continue to struggle.
Matta-e-Umar-e-Aziz saari, ganwa chukay, par safar hai jaari
Ajeeb saudaa hai aashiqi ka, keh Fikr-e-Sood-o-Ziyaan nahin hai.
The Journey of Love continues even what we garnered all lifelong seems lost
Weird are the ways of Love indeed; we care not what we gained or what we lost.
Thus continues the Journey of Baloch for the present.
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