From Gold Medal to Dungeons – Lateef Johar Baloch

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From Gold Medal to Dungeons

Lateef Johar Baloch

The Balochistan Post

Just two days ago Razziq was the recipient of a gold medal for his academic achievements from Turbat University. Today no one knows his whereabouts, his family does not even know if he is alive or dead.

The celebrations for this achievement were short lived as Mr. Razziq was whisked away from Kolwaí Bázár in Balochistan’s Kech district around at 6:00pm Pakistan time on April 23, 2019 by the security forces. The family was left to mourn and cry after the unwarranted raid and the subsequent forced disappearance of Razziq.

According to family sources, Mr. Razziq came to Turbat city from Quetta to attend the degree convocation ceremony for the master’s students at the University of Turbat (UofT) in Kech and to collect his gold medal, which he was honoured for his outstanding achievement in MA Balochi program. He is also doing his MPhil in Balochi at University of Balochistan in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan.

Mr. Razziq is a local of Zík village in Gíshkor area of Awaran district. The area was completely overtaken by Pakistani military just after a few weeks of the destructive earthquake in the area in October 2013. The pretext to this takeover was to protect the CPEC route. Since then, the indigenous people of the area have been experiencing various types of persecution from the military, including abduction, killings, destruction of their livelihoods and forceful displacement in thousands.

The family of Mr. Razziq was also affected from the same suffering: their houses were burned down to ashes and all valuables were taken away in 2015 and the family was forcibly displaced from their ancestors’ village, Zík, to Kech city.

“He traveled from Quetta to Turbat city to attend the convocation ceremony at University of Turbat and to collect his gold medal from the varsity.” Says his sister-in-law via text message. “On the evening of April 23, the military forces raided their house and abducted and took him, while he was shirtless, with them to their camp in the city.”

After the April 19, 2019 killings of the 14 military personnels of Pakistan by Baloch militants, the military forces intensified their usual practice of abducting and whisking away people. The targets of these abductions included women, children and relatives of Baloch political activists. According to the sources from Balochistan, hundreds of civilians, mostly from the Geshkor Awaran region, were abducted and disappeared in retribution to this incident.

On April 21, the wife and children of Baloch activists were whisked away and detained incommunicado without any previous warrants from Awaran, a district which shares borders with Gwadar in south and with Kech district in its west. The victims were investigated under duress to share the locations of their activist family members who have left their families due the risk of extra judicial persecution of the military.

It is believed Razziq was also victimized because of his kinship with a leader of Baloch National Movement (BNM), a pro-freedom but peaceful political party in the war torn Balochistan.

In addition to being related with a political Baloch activist he also invites the ire of the security forces because of his efforts in Balochi literature. Balochi language is not allowed to be taught in schools in Balochistan and poets, writers and linguists who strive to promote the language or hinder the assimilation of the language are seen as a threat to the Pakistani nationa building efforts. Prior to this incident, many other writers, poets and linguists had also faced the same fate.

An example is of Khuda Bukhsh was a teacher from the same earthquake-and-military hit village Geshkor. He was detained after being called by the military to their camp. Ironically the camp was indeed the only high school, where Khuda Bukhsh once used to teach and at that time the military had converted it into the military headquarters in the area. After 18 days of his disappearance into the camp, on March 4, 2015, his mutilated dead body was discovered from Khuzdar.

Mr. Bukhsh´s only guilt which caused his disappearance and death in the hands of the military was his efforts to get the army out of the school and re-establish it as a school to teach. Another factor that contributed to his brutal death was also his family kinship with members of a pro freedom party.

“He has nothing to do with my political activism. My relationship with him is only my marriage with his sister. The social and family relationships must not be connected to someone’s personal ideology or activism. But unfortunately, Pakistani military has been committing such injustices for years in Balochistan.” Said Sattar Baloch, the sister-in-law of the victim.

All the reports show that the police in Balochistan is powerless in front of the security forces and always refuse to register such happenings. And if in an instance the police agree to lodge a complaint, they make it sure that the victims’ families do not mention the names of the security forces who are often the real perpetrators.

The witnesses are often threatened and silenced for the fear of further persecution. They witness the abductions and killings of their loved ones but cannot speak a word due the fear of losing the rest of the family members at the hands of the Pakistani security forces.

“We fear Razziq would be extra judicially persecuted, if urgent actions are not taken for his safety. We can’t do anything. No one listens to the helpless families of the victims in Pakistan; for God’s sake do something from there, [in western countries].” Pleaded a member of the family via a voice mail to me.

The people are losing the hopes for the safe return of their disappeared ones due to their previous experiences of discovery of the bodies of the victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan.

The years-long practice of such collective punishments and blackmailing Balochistan’s activists should be stopped. It’s completely against the United Nations Fourth Geneva Convention. As a member of the UN and its Human Right Council Pakistan must be asked to stop harassing, abducting and killing of unarmed and innocent relatives of Baloch activists and release all victims, including Mr. Razziq.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Balochistan Post or any of its editors.

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