The sit-in protest by the families of Baloch missing persons continues for the fourth day as the government and opposition delegations arrive to persuade them to end their protest. While the other political and rights activists came to express solidarity with the protestors. Besides a heap of blankets, the Baloch women sit on the crossroads, gazing at Pakistani parliament located a stone’s throw and holding the portraits of their missing loved ones. They await the arrival of the prime minister of Pakistan to personally assure them the safe return of their family members. The federal government has not yet given any indication of the premier’s arrival.
According to the details, Zubaida Jalal, the Federal Minister for Defence Production of Pakistan and a member of the ruling Balochistan Awami Party (BAP), visited the protestors on Friday, where she asked them to end their protest and head back homes. She also assured them that she will communicate their message to the prime minister of Pakistan.
Speaking to the protestors, Jalal said that the opposition has been capitalising off of their sit-in protest. She said that the issue of enforced disappearances is not new – it has existed for quite a while. “People were being forcibly disappeared during their [opposition’s] tenures, and yet they come here and shed tears”, she was quoted as saying. The minister added that the prime minister is very “anxious” about the issue of enforced disappearances and that he is working to resolve the problem.
Jalal asked the Baloch women to end their protest and return home, assuring them that she will convey their message to the premier of the country. To this the protestors said that they will not end the protest until they are not completely guaranteed. They said that we have been hearing such promises for many years, we have lost faith in them.
Key figures of the Pakistan Democratic Movement and the Jamaat-e-Islami also briefly participated in the protest to express solidarity with protestors. These included Ahsan Iqbal of the PML, Jahanzaib Jalamdini from BNP-Mengal, Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Mr Siraj ul Haq, Usman Kakar of the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and several others.
Addressing the gathering, they said that the issue of missing persons has reached a “critical” level. If the government does not take this issue seriously, “Balochistan could slip out of hands.”
They said that the Pakistan Democratic Movement has the potential to establish “true democracy” in Pakistan – we stand with the families of the Baloch missing persons.
The families of the Baloch missing persons have been protesting in the federal capital Islamabad for the past nine days. They sat in front of the Islamabad National Press Club for six days and then marched to the D-Chowk, a juncture located a few hundred meters from the seat of the Pakistani government, for a sit-in protest. Viral videos of the march show the Islamabad police trying to stop the march midway as the protestors fumble their way in. The police also arrested nine Baloch students from the protest site on flimsy grounds, but subsequently released them after few hours of confinement.
‘A battle for humanity’
The Baloch Solidarity Committee organized a demonstration in Lahore on Friday to express solidarity with Baloch protestors in Islamabad. Scores of students from various academic institutions of Lahore participated in the demonstration, carrying placards and banners that bore messages for the recovery of Baloch missing persons.
Addressing the demonstration, historian and activist Ammar Ali Jan said that the Baloch are fighting “a battle for humanity.” He said that enforced disappearances are not a problem unique to Balochistan – it as affliction plaguing the whole country. He said that people were disappeared from Lahore, and Punjab remained silent. But this is a battle of “truth and falsehood” and Punjab must not remain silent this time.
He said that Punjab must speak for Balochistan now. If these people break up like how Bengal did in 1971, we will blame foreign countries for the act. “The status quo in Balochistan is solely our doing.”
The Baloch Solidarity Committee also organized a demonstration in Quetta on Thursday to express solidarity with Baloch protestors. Hundreds of participants took to the streets, carrying placards and banners and raising slogans in favor of the protestors in Islamabad.
Members of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, Balochistan National Party and the National Party also participated in the demonstration.
The speakers asked the government to recover the missing loved ones of the Baloch protestors in Islamabad. They said that Balochistan is no longer safe; it has been converted into a “cantonment” where the forces gratuitously “abduct” people.
They said that whenever we raise our voices against “injustices and tyranny”, we are labelled as “traitors.” The state wants to endure “oppression” with stoicism, but that is not possible – “we cannot live as slaves on our own land.”