Baloch March from Quetta to Karachi

On November 3, the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons launched a two week long, 430 mile march from Quetta to Karachi to encourage authorities to end kidnappings in Balochistan.

quetta-karachi-baloch-marchQUETTA, Pakistan — On June 8, 2009, Zakir Majeed, a 26-year-old university student in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province and activist with the Baloch Students Organization (BSO), was on his way to a friend’s house. He was stopped by unidentified gunmen traveling in two cars without plates and whisked him away.

According to Majeed’s sister Farzana, the men who kidnapped her brother defined themselves as workers of spy agencies. Farzana said they took Majeed and his friends into custody for uncertain reasons. Later on his friends returned home safe but Majeed didn’t.

It has been four years since Majeed’s disappearance and according to Baloch rights groups and his family, authorities refuse to officially disclose whether he was taken into their custody.

Majeed is among thousands of Pakistan’s missing persons; those who have mysteriously disappeared without a trace, whether picked up by armed groups or, as many families of victims allege the secret Pakistani agencies and paramilitary forces, known as the Frontier Corps (FC).

According to officials, more than 2,200 Baloch citizens from the troubled Balochistan province are reported missing since 2005 while the Baloch Right Activists set the number to more than 15,000. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a Baloch rights group led by Mr. Mama Qadeer Baloch, says that the bodies of more than 500 missing persons bore torture mark. Since April 2009, many bodies were often found dumped on the side of the road at different areas in Balochistan.

On November 3, the VBMP launched a long march from Quetta to Karachi to encourage authorities to discuss this devastating issue. The 700-kilometer (430-mile) march, from Quetta to Karachi began on Sunday and is expected to take two weeks.

The leaders of this nonviolent protest are Nasrullah Baloch and Mama Qadeer Baloch, and they will be accompanied by men, women and children who seek justice for the missing and exploited.

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Before leaving for Karachi, Qadeer Baloch told reporters that current leaders have intensified the kill and dump policy in Balochistan.

“More than 15,000 Baloch have disappeared, been tortured then killed” Mr. Qadeer said. “If someone is involved in heinous crimes, then bring him before a court and charge him. We don’t see this, however – we only see their bodies appear,” he added.

“We are being compelled to come on roads and strike against the state,” said another human rights activist, adding that “we are being left with no choice but to take up arms against the government.” “We have tried all democratic routes – they have not worked. Our weapons are now our only defense,” he says.

Qadeer Baloch demanded safe recovery for all missing persons in Balochistan and accused the intelligence agencies of picking up a large number of Baloch political workers to suppress their voice. However the Balochistan government contradicts these claims and stresses that the number of missing persons was less than the VBMP claims.

Qadeer Baloch has been raising this issue and protesting for the last five years. During this period he, along with the families of missing persons, have knocked on the door of Supreme Judiciary in Pakistan and have set several hunger strike camps in all major Pakistani cities.

While his previous protests and hunger strikes aimed at ending the kidnappings and missing persons failed, it remains to be seen if his peaceful march from Quetta to Karachi will inspire change.

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.