The families of the Baloch missing persons have been protesting in the provincial capital Quetta for two weeks, demanding the safe release of their loved ones. The demonstration began in the wake of the Ziarat Incident where the Pakistani security forces had allegedly killed 11 Baloch missing persons in a “fake encounter.” The families say that the incident shows that the lives of their loved ones are in jeopardy, and demand their safe release. A seminar was held in Quetta on Thursday that was attended by political activists and prominent politicians., who expressed sympathy for the protestors and voiced their demands.
BNP-Mengal leader Haji Lashkari Raisani, VBMP Chairman Mama Qadeer Baloch, Professor Manzoor Baloch, Tahir Habib, and Advocate Imran Baloch were among the attendees of the seminar. The families of the victims of the Ziarat Incident were also present, joined by the families of other Baloch missing persons.
Addressing the gathering, activist Sammi Deen Baloch said that the issue of “enforced disappearances” and the Baloch missing persons is not an individual problem, but rather a “national crisis” facing Balochistan as a whole. She said that the guests attending the seminar have shown the families of missing persons that they are not alone in this fight and that they have people understanding and sympathizing with their cause.
Activist Seema Baloch said that some government representatives visited the protest to give “false assurance” and “false hope” to the families of the missing persons. She said that during our years of protest, we have heard countless “spurious promises” that yield no result whatsoever. She said that we are forced to protest in the streets, and then the people in power use all the means – including harassment – to end our protests. She said that we won’t protest if our loved ones are safely released.
Professor Manzoor Baloch said that Baloch women have become a symbol of despondency and helplessness, but their years-long struggle has not died down yet. He said that the Baloch women have never been quiet in the face of injustice and cruelty – they have crushed tyranny wherever it has reared its head.
HRCP leader Tahir Habib said that courts in other countries provide justice to their citizens; the courts here harass the people into silence. He said such shameful behaviour from a judicial body goes against every principle of human decency.
The speakers conceded that Baloch political parties should join hands and raise the issue of the Baloch missing persons. The families of the missing persons demanded the safe release of their loved ones and said that the protest would continue until the missing persons have not returned home.
The families of the missing persons have found supporters voicing their cause in foreign lands. On Wednesday, Baloch and Sindhi human rights activists carried out a demonstration against the Ziarat Incident in front of the Pakistani High Commission in London. The demonstrators condemned the alleged “fake encounter” of 11 Baloch missing persons in Ziarat and expressed sympathy with the protestors in Quetta.
The demonstrators said that the Pakistani security forces are involved in human rights violations and war crimes in Balochistan. They said that the Pakistani state intends to crush the Baloch resistance movement by force, but this strategy has backfired – if anything, the Baloch activists – especially women – have joined the movement en masse to raise their voices for their loved ones. They said that Pakistani should learn the lesson that it is impossible to squelch the resistance bubbling in Balochistan.
The speakers expressed sympathy to the families of the victims of the Ziarat Incident and said that you are not alone in this struggle – you have our unconditional support. They appealed that the democratic world, especially the US and the UK, international human rights groups and the United Nations take notice of the issue and hold Pakistan accountable.