Baloch Kidnappings Inspire 400 Mile March

On October 27, around twenty families began a 400 mile march from Balochistan to Karachi to raise awareness for the thousands of kidnappings and unsolved murders in Pakistan.

families of baloch disappeared personsMen, women and children made the dangerous journey on foot across Southwestern Balochistan and finished 27 days later on November 22 at Karachi Press Club, the provincial capital of Sindh.

BBC Urdu called this march an unprecedented protest in the history of the subcontinent in which twenty families covered 700 km (400 miles) on foot under fear, uncertainty and terror.

Chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Qadeer Baloch, affectionately known as “Mama” (uncle) Qadeer Baloch, led the demonstrators and said the march was an attempt to shed light on the kidnappings in Balochistan. Protestors carrying pictures of their beloved ones chanted slogans for more than three hours, and staged a sit-in in front of Karachi Club. However they failed to attract the attention of Pakistan’s media and civilian government.

Among the marchers was the 26-year-old Farzana Majeed, the sister of missing student leader Zakir Majeed, who has been missing since 2009 after his arrest by unidentified gunmen. Farzana accuses the military and the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) of abducting her brother.

Wearing a scarf covering her face and with teary eyes, she asks repeatedly:

“What is our fault? Why is Pakistani and international media ignoring our march for the recovery of our loved ones? We have marched for 27 days but the media is completely silent and by ignoring our peaceful and democratic protest, they are pushing us against the wall.”

Adds Farzana, “I will not remain silent whether they ignore or kill, I will continue to protest until they recover all missing people including my brother.”

baloch-missing-persons-quetta-karachi

Families of missing persons marching 700 km (400 miles) from Quetta to Karachi. Photo courtesy of Kiyya Baloch.

Apart from Mama Qadeer Baloch, whose cousin has been missing since 2001, others marchers included Nasrullah Baloch, whose uncle has been missing for 11 years and a 7-year-old boy whose father Jalil Reki, had allegedly been “extrajudicially killed after a year of his disappearance by security agencies.”

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Mama Qadeer Baloch says protestors will continue in Karachi by holding a vigil and launching a hunger strike in front of the Karachi Press Club for an indefinite period. Baloch also criticized state, local and international media for not giving due coverage to their march. “We have been protesting for the last five years against enforced disappearances and human injustice,” Baloch lamented.

According Mama Qadeer Baloch, there are 23,000 registered cases of missing persons in Balochistan.

Baloch says that 14,000 of the 23,000 occurred during the tenure of the center-left Pakistan People’s Party government. He says since June 2010, 730 missing persons have been extrajudicially killed after their arrest and disappearance. Balochistan government officials confirm the extrajudicial killings of 530 persons during this time.

Baloch announced to initiate another phase of protest march on foot towards Islamabad or the United Nations. He appealed to the United Nations and international media to break their silence on the issue of missing persons in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

Kiyya Qadir Baloch is a freelance Baloch journalist associated with the Daily Times based in Islamabad. He reports on foreign affairs, Baloch insurgency, militancy and sectarian violence in Balochistan. Read other articles by Kiyya.