Qalandar Memon: Comarde Lateef Johar have been on a hunger strike for six days now, would you like to tell us why you are on hunger strike?
Lateef Johar Baloch: My name is Latif Johar Baloch. I am a member of central committee of Balochistan Student Organisation – Azad (BSO-A). I am on hunger strike in front of Karachi Press club since 22nd April, for the release of Zahid Baloch. If I die then another person will take my place and after him or her, another one, until our demand that Zahid Baloch be released be met.
QM: Can you tell us about Zahid Baloch, Who is he? And who abducted him?
L.J.B: Zahid Baloch is the current chairman of BSO Azad. He went to Quetta for organizational work and to meet some friends. He was staying with his friends when on the18th of March the house he was staying in was surrounded by the police, Frontier Corp, and other security forces. They were trying to abducted him when his friends resisted they threatened to kill him and them. They bound his feet and hands and forcefully took him away.
Q.M: Comrade you belong to BSO Azad a student organization can you tell us what are the problems of students in Balochistan?
L.J.B: The primary problem of Baloch students is that they are being abducted and murdered by Pakistan security forces. Then their mutilated dead bodies are being thrown on the road.
Schools, universities, colleges and student hostels are under strict watch of security forces. A few days ago in Turbat security forces raided a college and beat up the students badly. A library was also raided and the books taken away. Also, recently, they beat up a teacher named Rafi Khan. The security forces held the students for the entire night and tortured them during the interrogation. Young students such as Chakar Baloch have been abducted and killed.
In Awaran, the April 2013 earthquake destroyed many educational institutions and of the few that are left, the security forces occupy them.
I am also a student and I did my B.A from the Degree College, Turbat, however, I can’t study any further now since it is not possible; our campuses have been turned into barracks. Similarly Zahid Balcoh was studying in Karachi but he left his studies because students in Karachi were being abducted by Pakistan security forces. Zakir Majeed was also a leader of BSO-A and he too has been abducted and is missing. Likewise, Qamar Chakar and many others. Similarly, many students are being abducted from Turbat city. Students are scared to go to school in case their school is raided. Students cannot stroll the streets with a book in their hands and pen in their pockets in Balochistan.
Books shops are being raided and bookshop owners arrested.
Also, please note that Baloch intellectuals and teachers are being assassinated. Both Saba Dashtyari and Ustad Ali Jan were murdered. In the case of Ustad Ali Jan he was murdered but also his library was burnt down. You know that Saba Dashtyari was author of fourteen books and the Pakistani state killed him mercilessly. He also built a library, which consists of thousands of books and that was his crime that he wrote books and built a library.
What is clear is that the state does not want the Baloch to study.
QM: My last question. Do you have any message for other students both in his region and studying in other continents from BSO Azad.
LJB: Sure, I have a message for them. I sit here on hunger strike. I took a big decision. I have hope in the international community and international institution, international students and particularly with my Baloch students, wherever they may be. I have message for them. I appeal to them. I am on this hunger strike so that students can carry books, pens and benefit from the light of knowledge. At present in Balochistan the Pakistani state and its military has put books and pens in chains. We have break free from the chains and free thought.Students are not allowed to go to schools and teacher are not allowed to teach. I appeal to international students unions and student federations, I appeal to Baloch writer and intellectuals, I appeal to international writers and intellectuals, I appeal to friends of humanity, I appeal to friends of books, I appeal to friends of knowledge, Please join your voice with ours. Please save my nations (Baloch) future. We are suffering from unimaginable oppressions if you do not support us our enemy will become stronger.
Again, I appeal to all to come and save knowledge.
I am not sitting here because I want to die. I want to spread my message to the world. Maybe, Pakistan will do nothing, maybe, they will completely destroy each school in Balochistan and continue to snatch our books from our hands and pens from our pockets…but my hope will not break. My hope is bigger than their guns.
I appeal international writers, journalists, academics and other teachers and intellectuals join your voice to ours.
They can support us in many ways. By writing about what is happening in various media, by spreading information. They can join us on social media. We have page, BSO Azad on Facebook and people can like that page. I ask them to join their voice with mine, not for my sake but for the sake of my message, for the cause of students in Balochistan and for the release of Zahid Baloch.
(Photo shows Lateef Johar with the two sons of Zahid Baloch for whose release he is undertaking a hunger strike unto death)
For more information on the hunger strike please see click on the links below:
For more on Balochistan see:
Open Letter Demanding The Release of Baloch Missing Persons by Mir Muhammad Ali Talpur, Noam Chomsky, Mohammad Hanif, Ayesha Siddiqa, Tariq Ali among others.