Protest held in Karachi against disappearance of Baloch students

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The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons held a protest in front of the Karachi Press Club on Friday against the disappearance of Baloch students. Student leaders, social activists, families of the missing persons and the general public participated in the protest and called on the authorities to assure the safe release of the missing students.

The participants carried banners and placards that featured the photos of the missing persons and messages like: “Enforced disappearances are a heinous crime”, “Those who should be in colleges and universities are in prisons” and “End enforced disappearances now.”

Addressing the gathering, activist Sammi Deen Baloch said that we gather in front of this press club to protest against the human rights crisis that has gripped our land. Social worker Naghma Sheikh said that that the Baloch have protested on this spot numerous times, but the government institutions have so far failed in resolving their issues. The families of Baloch missing persons were also present in the protest and asked for the safe release of their loved ones.

Members of the Youth Progressive Alliance were also in attendance on Friday. Addressing the protestors, they said that that systemic harassment and abduction of Baloch students from academic institutions is aimed at preventing them from attaining education. We will always raise our voice against these injustices, they said.

A wave of protests has swept across Quetta and Karachi in the wake of the enforced disappearance of Sohail and Faseeh Baloch, two students at the University of Balochistan. The protestors argue that the two students were detained by the Pakistani security forces with the help of the university administration. The students have suspended all of their academic activities in protest against the disappearance of their loved ones. The university was also closed indefinitely in the wake of the protests. Students in the Bolan Medical College, Polytechnic College and Science College have also joined the call and suspended their education in protest.

Sohail and Faseeh Baloch were studying Pakistan Studies at Balochistan University. They were not only classmates but close friends and roommates in the university hostels. The two students were picked up in broad daylight amid the air-tight security in the university. The students say that they appealed to the university administration to disclose the CCTV footage of the time of the abduction, but they refused, claiming that the cameras were shut down because there was no electricity. The two students were detained from the university premises and the administration bears all the responsibility for their safe recovery, they say.

In the past few weeks, Balochistan has witnessed a wave of abductions amid the military crackdown. The disappearances have mobilized a large swath of the Baloch society, especially women who have been at the forefront of the struggle against enforced disappearances and kill-and-dumps. From ten-year-old girls who barely understand the world to seventy-year-old women who have lived a generation, all gather in the protest camps and roads in search of their missing fathers, brothers, uncles or sons.

The pain is understandable; one can argue that the women pay the heaviest price for the rampant enforced disappearances. Men are either imprisoned or abducted, but the women have to sit and wait for excruciatingly long years with the hope that their loved ones will one day return. Many have died in this hopeless wait; others have committed suicide.


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