Qadeer Baloch Vows to March on Islamabad

Chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Qadeer Baloch vowed on Sunday that he will go ahead with his plans for a long march to Islamabad despite threats and intimidation.


Credit: Bolan Voice

Qadeer Baloch, affectionately known as “Mama” (uncle) Qadeer Baloch, recently led a long walk for justice from Quetta to Karachi.

He said that his new long march will stage a sit-in in front of the United Nations office in Islamabad to highlight the issue of missing persons in Pakistan’s insurgency-ridden Southwestern Balochistan province.

Mr. Baloch will attempt this peaceful protest despite unlawful tactics taken by the provincial Punjab and the federal governments to stop him heading toward Islamabad.

Mr. Baloch said that stopping the peaceful long march is like insulting democracy and abusing basic human rights.

While commenting about his fellow marchers, he said that all the participants remained in a state of terror. He said no one is safe among the marchers; be they male, female or child.

Mr. Baloch remarked that this is the complete failure of the government as humanity is being destroyed in Balochistan on a daily basis. Mr. Baloch strongly criticized the government, saying it has failed to stop the enforced disappearances in Balochistan.

“The rulers in Pakistan are not capable to provide protection to Baloch people,” he said, adding “I am coming to Islamabad to address this issue before UN officials. If they don’t listen me here I’ll walk through Geneva.”

Qadeer Baloch and supporters pressured to call of the march

Qadeer Baloch acknowledged that while he could be attacked in the long march, he would go on, as he does not fear death. He said that he had called his family members for his will, and that Pakistani security forces and officials are protecting the terrorists involved in human rights abuses in Balochistan.

“People in Punjab and Islamabad have lost democratic traditions and social morality,” he added. Mr. Baloch stressed that he will lead the long march to Islamabad at all costs whether anyone from Punjab supports him or not.

“This march is not for getting in power but a struggle for the Baloch missing persons, whose beloved ones are missing,” he added. Accusing security forces and state institutions for creating obstacles on his way to Islamabad, Baloch said people supporting him have been pressured for showing sympathy to the marchers. He revealed that his supporters have been intimidated, harassed and threatened. Deadly attempts were made to prevent the march, but he refuses to quit.

“Participants of this march have been attacked in Punjab; though not killed,” he explained. “I will lead this long march at any cost,” he remarked.

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As participants of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons long march near the Pakistani capital, the administration and Rawalpindi district administration started taking measures to prevent demonstrators from entering Islamabad and Rawalpindi, which they believe may create problems for the country at an international level.

According to my sources, on Feb. 22 the government finalized its plan to prevent participants of the long march from proceeding into the federal capital, but showed slight flexibility by offering two venues to the organizers to hold their sit in, provided they remained peaceful.

A senior government official familiar with the talks informed me that participants of the march would never be allowed to march towards the Parliament of Pakistan and diplomatic enclave in Islamabad. However two other places would be offered to them to protests.

The official said Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bezanjo and Lt. Gen. (R) Abdul Qadir Baloch have been requested to meet with the marchers and offer them two venues to protest: The Balochistan House and Islamabad Press Club.

Preventive security deployed

With marchers just a few miles away from Islamabad, police have tightened security by deploying 200 commandos at around 70 key security points, in addition to the regular police escorts. The police said the high alert and subsequent deployment of security personnel would ensure foolproof security in Islamabad.

Sources stated that police commandos had been deployed at all the entry and exit points and the sensitive “Red Zone” around the Parliament House on a recent directive by Sikandar Hayat, inspector general of police, to assist regular police in meeting any challenge.

Mr. Qadeer Baloch sees these arrangements as an excuse to stop Baloch marchers from entering Islamabad. It is pertinent to mention here that several months ago, a long march of around 20 families began from Quetta to Karachi, after completing 750 km (466 miles) on foot without inspiring any change in the status quo.

Men, women and children risked their lives traveling across mountainous regions of Southwestern Balochistan on foot and ended their journey after 27 days at Karachi Press Club, the provincial capital of Sindh.

The second phase of the Long March began in December 13 from Pakistan’s port city Karachi to Islamabad, covering a distance of about 1,400 km (869 miles).

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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.