On Sunday, Pakistan’s major opposition parties flexed a power-show in Quetta against the federal government. This is the third such event by the 11 – party anti-government Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). Like the preceding two, the event in Quetta was also a success as large number of supporters and activists from different political parties participated.
However, this power-show has different significance to Balochistan, where surface politics has generally disappeared. The most important aspect of the rally in Quetta was the issue of Baloch missing persons that echoed in speeches of almost all speakers.
BNP-Mengal’s leader, Akhtar Mengal, who has been vocal on the issue of enforced disappearances, said that the families of Baloch missing persons have been waiting for 10 years for the return of their loved ones. Lambasting Pakistan’s establishment and military he questioned, “Our children have been murdered; our houses are empty. Was this why this country was made?”
PPP Chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also raised the issue of the Baloch missing persons and said that Pakistan cannot be called a modern democracy until this issue is resolved.
But more interesting was the outright condemnation by Punjab’s major political party PML-N’s head Nawaz Sharif. He said: “I’m aware of the Baloch people’s problems. The missing person issue is still there. I feel pain when I see the victims.”
His daughter and PML-N’s vice president Maryam Nawaz went a step ahead and, after hugging the families of missing persons on the stage, passionately raised the issue of Baloch missing persons, demanding the government for their safe recovery. While addressing the attendees, she said that “Hasiba Qambrani’s account about her brothers’ arrest has brought so many tears in my eyes that even my mother’s death and my father’s arrest could not bring.”
While some, including the families of Baloch missing persons, celebrated the brief limelight their ignored issue attracted, others struggled to put any trust in the promises from the political parties.
The enforced disappearances, allegedly by Pakistani state forces, in Balochistan are not a new phenomenon, in fact, the first cases date back to early 2000s. The numbers have increased with each coming year and now as per Voice For Baloch Missing Persons, tens of thousands in Balochistan cannot be traced after they were taken by Pakistan’s secretive agencies.
During this time span of two decades, Pakistan’s federal government has been ruled by both PPP and PML-N. Both parties failed to address the issue during their government, in fact, the infamous “kill and dump” policy, that has consumed lives of thousands of missing persons, was initiated during PPP’s government. Thousands have also been disappeared or were killed during Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N government.
The colossal claims during the rally in Quetta might serve the agenda of these political parties in securing the next term of Islamabad’s government. But not many are expecting any improvement in Balochistan. Balochistan is controlled by Pakistan’s secretive security apparatus and parties who secure the government are too scared to address the real issues in fear of losing their government.
Deportation of Mohsin Dawar fittingly portrays the power of elements that control Balochistan. Mohsin Dawar, member of the national assembly and a leader of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, was also meant to address the PDM gathering at Quetta but was barred from leaving the airport. He was detained by the officials and was deported, barring him from entering Balochistan.
If a sitting member of National Assembly can be treated in such a manner at a time when the whole international and national media was present in Quetta then one can expect what happens in this “information blackhole” when the deep state is totally free to call the shots with fully impunity.