Mar 04, 2014

Balochistan: A March For The Disappeared

Relatives of victims of forced disappearances in Balochistan completed a 2000km march to raise awareness and protest against the abduction of regional activists by Pakistan’s security forces. 

Below is an article from The Guardian:

Relatives campaigning against the illegal kidnapping and detention of family members by Pakistan's security forces completed an arduous 2,000km protest march from one of the country's most troubled provinces to Islamabad on Friday [28 February 2014].

The twenty-strong group started their "long march" in October from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan – a huge province in the south-west where security forces are engaged in a dirty counterinsurgency campaign against separatists who say their land is exploited by outsiders.

One of the marchers, 72-year-old retired bank clerk called Mama Qadeer Baloch, described their arrival on the outskirts of Islamabad as a "victory for my nation and a victory for missing persons".

Human rights groups have long accused the army of "disappearances" of Baloch separatists. The missing are often held in detention for years with their relatives knowing nothing of their whereabouts.

Others are killed, their bodies left on roadsides. According to Human Rights Watch 300 have been killed and dumped in the last three years.

The 20 marchers included nine young women and an eleven-year-old boy.

Despite their gruelling journey, little attention has been paid to their campaign outside Balochistan.

On some parts of their route they say they were ordered to turn back. While in some parts of Punjab – the country's dominant province – they received abuse and hostility.

Baloch nationalists say their vast but thinly populated province is only of interest to the country's Punjabi establishment for its gas reserves – a vital resource for the textile industry and other businesses.

Separatists in the province regularly attack government forces.

The cause of the insurgents was energised in 2006 with the killing during a military operation of Akbar Khan Bugti, a tribal chief and a leader of the armed struggle in the province.

Baloch said his primary aim had been to attract international attention. The campaigners say they will ask the United Nations to send troops to Balochistan.

"This march and this struggle was for the attention of the international community because the solution does not lie with Pakistan but with the international media and institutions," he said.

However their cause does have some high-powered supporters in Pakistan. The country's supreme court has issued many demands for the government to find and produce the missing people.