May 02, 2014

Balochistan: Hunger Striker Demands Freedom For Enforcedly Disappeared Student Leader

Latif Johar, whose health is quickly deteriorating, is on a hunger strike till death to demand the recovery of the leader of the Baloch Student Organisation Azad, Zahid Baloch. Zahid was taken by law enforcement agencies in March of 2014 and there has been no news of him since. Enforced disappearances are common in Balochistan, and the missing people often endure torture or extrajudicial killings.

Below is an article published by the Tribune

A weak Latif Johar lies flat on a thin mat outside the Karachi Press Club. A doctor checks his pulse as a drip runs through it. His eyes have turned yellow. It has been several days since he last touched food yet the thought of dying does not frighten the young man.

On Tuesday [29 April 2014], Johar, 23, entered the eighth day of his hunger strike to demand the recovery of his leader, Zahid Baloch, who is the chairperson of the Baloch Student Organisation (BSO)-Azad. “We tried all means to raise our voice about our missing people,” he said. “We protested and leaders, such as Mama Qadeer, walked on for miles. I am now doing this to highlight our plight to the world.”

Johar will not give up until Zahid is released. Since he started the hunger strike on April 22 [2014], he has lost eight kilogrammes in eight days. “I am ready to die but I won’t give up. I am on a hunger strike till death.”

His condition is deteriorating with every passing moment and he feels too weak to sit or talk. “He was not even drinking water,” said a worried supporter. “We forced him to but he throws up.”

Johar’s ‘ustaad’, Baloch activist Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur embraced him, and requested him to end the hunger strike. “I have come here to request him to end this strike. The point has been made.” But, the determined protester refused.

Johar, who belongs to Awaran, has done his BA from Turbat College. Since 2008, he has been an official member of the student organisation. “We talk about our rights and give awareness to our people. We tell them about our history.”

Several Baloch men and women are present in the tent with Johar. A senior vice-chairperson of the party, Kareema Baloch, said the decision to protest through a hunger strike was by taken by the central committee and many people volunteered for it. “If Johar is taken away or, God forbid, something happens to him, other members will step forward and take his place,” she said. “This cycle of hunger strikes will go on till Zahid Baloch is released.”

Kareema claimed she and other members of the organisation saw Zahid being led away by law enforcement agencies on the evening of March 18 [2014]. “We were all at a house in Quetta where we came to know of the presence of the law enforcement agencies,” she recalled.

As they stepped outside, they saw men both in uniforms and plainclothes, questioning Zahid. They tied his hands, blindfolded him and then took him away, she said. “They told us to leave; otherwise they would shoot him,” she claimed.

Since then, there has been no news or information about Zahid. His wife and two children were also part of the protest but were sent back home by the organisation. The members urged the human rights bodies to take notice of the issue. 

Photo © Athar Khan/Express