On 4th September a normal wedding ceremony was underway in Quetta, everyone seemed cheerful on the face of it but there was a sense of dread in the environment. Not because there was any particular concern but because the general situation in Quetta and all over the Balochistan has forced many to live a life of uncertainty and perpetual fear for years now. The fears and concerns materialised when this wedding was raided by personnel of Pakistani secretive agencies and Counter Terrorism Department. It is not clear what are the reasons behind this raid.
The chronical details of what happened that night are sketchy, not because these are unfounded but the immense fear of becoming victims themselves forces the eyewitnesses to avoid coming forward. What is certain is that the lives of at least eight families was turned upside down that night. Since then, their normal life routines have been destroyed and now the days of these families are spent running from one police station to another, contacting and pleading rights groups for support and guidance or marching the roads of Quetta in protest but with futile anticipations.
The youngsters taken away that night have been identified as Mansoor Qambrani, Wassay Qambrani, Dawood Qambrani, Zubair Qambrani, Uzair Zehri, Shakeel Shahwani, Umair Zehri and Shabeer Sumalani. The eight youth in their late teens or early twenties, are all either cousins or relatives.
Later on 8th September, another member of the same family identified as Fakhar-ud-din Qambrani was also taken away by Pakistani law enforcement forces.
There is no trace of any of the missing and none have been produced before the courts, a very common strategy of Pakistani secretive agencies.
The aggression against the Baloch youth is not limited to disappearances. It appears the security forces personnel also have a resentment against the Baloch students protesting for their educational problems. One such protest by medical students in Quetta on 8th September was dealt very harshly and scores of students were mercilessly beaten by Police in front of cameras.
These events are not isolated happenings by any means. Every month multiple such incidents from across the Balochistan are reported by rights and political groups.
In its monthly report for the month of August, Baloch National Movement, a political party from Balochistan, has claimed that at least 40 Baloch youth were forcibly disappeared in the month of August alone. 24 missing persons were also killed under custody in August, majority of them by the notorious Counter Terrorism Department (CTD). These are only the cases where families have come forward and reported the incidents to the media or campaign groups.
Rights groups, particularly Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, believe the real number of disappearances is much higher than what is reported to media. They maintain that a large number of families are threatened not to go public, or their loved ones will be harmed.
These claims are further corroborated by information that The Balochistan Post (TBP) has received in last few weeks. According to very reliable information, tens of Baloch youth and men have been abducted from Gwadar after Chinese engineers were targeted on 20th August. However, none of these cases have made it to other media outlets, whereas victim families have requested TBP not to publish any details of their loved ones.
Such incidents are only a glimpse of what has been happening in Balochistan in last two decades. A spike in disappearances of Baloch youth is witnessed after every attack on Pakistani forces and state installations by armed groups. Tens of thousands of Baloch youth have been disappeared never to be seen again. Thousands have been “killed and dumped”.
Youth of any society is a vital source; they are agents of progress and transformation. They should be protected and nourished, however, the youngsters in Balochistan have been continuous victims in the political conflict of the region.
What has perplexed the political parties, human rights groups and the public alike is the fact that the gross human rights violations in Balochistan and the continuous targeting of Baloch youth have completely failed to attract international intervention or attention. Undoubtedly a very sorry state of affairs.