In Balochistan, the largest and poorest province of Pakistan, separatists are fighting a bloody battle for independence. Separatist sentiment in the province is nothing new – after Pakistan's independence at the end of British colonial rule, many Baloch tribal chiefs did not accept the country as their own, and various uprisings over the years have struggled against Pakistani rule. But the last nine years have seen a revival of the decades-old conflict.
Baloch separatists occupy many areas of Balochistan, and Pakistani forces carry out regular operations against them. The toll has been great – more than 2,000 civilians have been killed in the latest round of violence as well as about 700 security forces and 500 fighters.
Apart from the killings, thousands of Baloch have disappeared without explanation. According to the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP), at least 18,000 Balochs have been abducted between 2001 and 2013 and their whereabouts remain unknown.
It is these disappearances that Vice Chairman of IVBMP Abdul Qadeer Baloch, also known as Mama Qadeer, has made the focus of his recent efforts. Spurred by his son who was abducted in 2009 and found dead two years later, Mama Qadeer established a camp for missing persons outside the Quetta Press Club in the provincial capital city, where families of missing persons have staged hundreds of protests. His restless struggle for Baloch missing persons marked 1,300 days on 13 October, 2013.
IVBMP has completed its 1300 days of protest during which time we protested in Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad. I and other members of IVBMP including sister of Zakir Majeed Baloch and her family have been receiving threats. Now along with threats I have been offered huge bribes to abandon the cause of disappeared persons.
Such threats and offers cannot weaken me but what is disappointing is the internal rifts of Baloch people – otherwise no power in the world can be a hurdle in my way. My strength is the prayers of the sisters, mothers and other relatives of Baloch martyrs and disappeared activists.
Social media users reached out in support of Mama Qadeer on the occasion.
Jamal Nasir BAloch (@JNBaloch) tweeted:
— BALOCH, Jamal Nasir (@JNBaloch) October 12, 2013
Mureed Bizenjo (@MureedBizenjo) described the effort:
— Mureed Bizenjo (@MureedBizenjo) August 16, 2013
Baloch rights movement activist Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur complained in a comment on the Bolan Times that society and the mainstream media usually ignore the issue of the Baloch missing persons:
Society at large and the media either refuse to see what is happening in Balochistan or try to justify the atrocities. All state institutions aid and abet in this crime, forcing the affected people to risk life and limb to express their pain.
Sana Baloch (@Senator_Baloch), a senior adviser at the United Nations, former senator and National Assembly member demanded the Nobel prize for Mama Qadeer Baloch:
— Sana BALOCH (@Senator_Baloch) October 13, 2013
Faiz Baloch (@Faiz_Baluch) also demanded the same:
1300 days of consecutive struggle 4 recovery of EnforcedDisappeared Baloch, but unbroken spirit. MamaQadeer truly deserves #NobelPeacePrize
— Faiz Baluch (@Faiz_Baluch) October 13, 2013