Everyday in school Hani misses her friend Mehlab and tells the story of their friendship to other classmates. She still remembers her jokes, naughtiness , the dolls that she used to hide in her school bags and how they played with the dolls at her home. Her eyes become nostalgic when she remembers her. She wants life to go back before June 2009 and it should always be KG1 in School.
Mehlab and Hani had not known that one day life would bring them to recall each other only in memory. They did not know people would disappear. One day Mehlab’s father disappeared. They say that Dr. Deen Mohammad was abducted by the Pakistani state forces. She did not understand why the Pakistan army would take away her father. Do they need a doctor in the army camp? What has her father done?
Dr. Deen Mohammad Baloch was a medical officer in Khuzdar, Balochistan. He is a senior member of Baloch National Movement (BNM). Mehlab was 8 years old when she decided to fight for the safe recovery of her father.
With the beginning of 21st century, the fifth Baloch uprising started questioning legitimacy of Pakistani state in Balochistan. Within a decade the waves of resistance and counter-measures by the state have completely changed the topography of life in Balochistan. To counter the Baloch movement, Pakistani state has allegedly whisked away thousands of Baloch, including Dr. Deen Mohammad.
Some of them do return. Most often as mutilated and dead bodies. But there is an absolute majority who are still called missing person. Mehlab’s father is in the later category.
Mehlab joined the struggle for her fathers return from the first day of protests. Children of her age go to schools and stay home with their parents to protect them but she has left her house along with her sister Sammi to attempt to bring back her father. Mehlab has grown up outside various Press Clubs – Quetta and Karachi. She has learnt the basic of life through joining protests, rallies and meeting media persons. The struggle has molded her to fight and face the challenges. She is now more determined to fight not only for her father but also for the thousands of other Baloch Missing Person.
When in 2013, Mama Qadeer announced that he would walk from Quetta to Karachi to Islamabad for the safe recovery of victims of enforced disappearances, Mehlab and Sammi were determined to join the protest. However, after suffering a foot inguiry other participants told her to rest, otherwise, she would suffer long term damage to her leg. She missed it.
Sometime i wonder how long shall she carry on? Perhaps life is all about some unanswered questions. Perhaps it is all about just going on without reaching to the destination. In life we long for things that we could never have but we fall in love with longing. In struggle its struggle itself that becomes a life, not the destination. Perhaps Mehlab does not care for the destination anymore but is in love with the struggle itself, a deep longing for nowhere and nothing – nothing but her father. Her struggle reminds me of a character whose brother is picked by Pinochet forces and missing since 1971 in Patricio Guzman 2010 documentary, Nostalgia for Light. She tells him about her missing brother Mario :
“ For as long as I can, if we must carry on searching I will do so. Even if I have many doubts and I ask my self questions which I can’t answer. They say they unearthed them , put them in bags and threw them into sea. Did they really throw them into the sea? I can’t find answers to this question. What if they threw them out nearby, somewhere in the mountains? At this point in my life, I am 70, I find hard to believe what I am told. They taught me not to believe. It is hard me for me. Some time I feel like an idiot because I never stop asking questions and nobody gives me the answers I want. If someone were to tell me they threw them out on the top of that mountain, I find a way of getting right to the top. I am not as strong I was 20 years ago. I am not as healthy. It would be difficult. But hope gives you strength. I no longer count the times Vicky and I have gone into the desert. We set out full of hope and return with our heads hanging. But we will always pick ourselves up , give ourselves a shake and set off again the next day even more hopeful and more impatient to find them. Some people must wonder why we want the bones. I want them so much! And I am not the only one. When they found one of Mario’s jaw-bones, I told them I did not want it. I told doctor Patricia Hernandez : “ I want him whole , I don’t want just a piece of him.” And I m not just saying for him but for all the disappeared. All of them. If I find it today and I were to die tomorrow, I would die happy. But I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die before I find him.”
Mehlab has also gone through the same pangs; that point where you have no hope but still you keep on moving in the hope to find the love one.
Mehlab may be among those who are in the struggle. She might be in the hearts of thousands of well wishers. But looking into Hani’s eyes while she is sitting with other girls in the school i can clearly read the words;
“ Mehlab is Missing”