Baloch missing persons: A sister’s vigil

Published: February 14, 2013

Farzana has spent the last four years of her life sitting in protest camps, turning up for court hearings, speaking at political rallies. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: 

Farzana Majeed has done her masters in biochemistry from Balochistan University, and now is enrolled in the MPhil programme. If she wasn’t a Baloch she’d be either wearing a white coat and working in a lab or, like many young people her age, struggling to get a job. Or at least turning up for her M Phil classes.

Instead, she has spent the last four years of her life sitting in protest camps, turning up for court hearings, speaking at political rallies.

All this while she has been waiting for some news about her brother Zakir Majeed.  She has been hoping that she wouldn’t get the kind of news that some of her fellow protestors have received while sitting in the camp with her.

She spends her days reading and sharing the newspaper with other protesters, watching the passersby go by without even stopping to look at this young girl in a burqa, camped out on the pavement circled by rows and rows of pictures of the missing and the martyred.

She is absolutely scared of getting that kind of news.

Zakir Majeed was a student of Masters in English and the vice president of Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), a nationalist students’ organisation with the avowed aim of raising awareness about Baloch rights on the campuses. BSO Azad has lost a number of its senior leaders, but it still persists with its struggle for the rights of the Baloch people.

Zakir was returning from Mastung with a couple of friends when they were chased and stopped by a number of vehicles; one Vigo with tinted glasses, two Hiluxes, one was red. The details of the raid were told to Farzana by Zakir’s friends who were picked up with him but were allowed to go 15 minutes later.

“His friends called between zohar and asar,” says Farzana. “I didn’t want to believe them. I turned on the TV. There was a ticker on only one channel about Zakir’s abduction. The first thing that occurred to me was that I must not tell my mother. She was not keeping well and I didn’t want to stress her. I called up his other friends.  They also confirmed it. I still didn’t tell my mother.”

Farzana contacted the representative of the Human Rights Commission in Khuzdar. Her younger brother went to Mastung along with Zakir’s friends who were witnesses to his kidnapping and lodged an FIR.

Farzana kept making flimsy excuses to her mother about why Zakir hadn’t returned home. “Then a couple of days later she had to go out of the house to pay her condolences to a family friend.  I realised that people will tell her. She’ll find out because everybody around us knew so I decided to tell her. I said casually that the police had taken Zakir.” Farzana’s mother broke down and started to pray.

“And she is still at it, she is still praying,” says Farzana,  in an irritated tone, like someone who has serious doubts about whether anybody is listening to their prayers, that her mother’s prayers are as futile as her own protests, as useless as the court hearings she has been attending for the past four years.

Zakir had been arrested before for his political activities. Charges were always the same; organising a strike, a protest, at worst vandalism, etc. “Every time his case came up, the session judge freed him. There was no case against him. He was a political worker not a criminal.”

Two weeks after Zakir was kidnapped, Farzana filed a writ petition in the Balochistan High Court.  Then she held a press conference in the Press Club in Khuzdar, staged a protest outside the Quetta Press Club and then in May 2010 set up a protest camp in Karachi, along with the families of other missing person. This was her first extended stay in Karachi. She stayed in various places while protesting, sometimes in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, sometimes in Lyari. She had been to Karachi as a teenager for sightseeing but this time around she herself was the centre of attention. “People occasionally dropped by to express their solidarity. The international media came. TV cameras came. But they didn’t really do much. Nothing changed. I even spent my Eid days in the protest camp. Nothing changed.”

Then suddenly disfigured bodies of the missing persons started to appear with greater frequency. Farzana along with Abdul Qadeer Baloch, a leader of the Voice for Missing Baloch Persons, who she refers to as Mama Qadeer, went and set up a protest camp in Islamabad in the hope of putting pressure on the authorities, to get the media to talk about the disappearances. Like every other family of the missing persons, Farazana went and met Justice Javaid Iqbal. Justice Javaid Iqbal told her what he has told every other Baloch family: Shut down the protest camp, go home and your family members will be with you within a week.

In his capacity as a former senior Supreme Court judge, and the man responsible for investigating the cases of the missing people, Javaid Iqbal has played a curious role in perpetuating this nightmare. He has made so many false promises to so many families that many see him as part of the problem.

They shifted the protest camp to Quetta and Farzana went home to Khuzdar to spend some time with her family. She started receiving anonymous, threatening phone calls. “Forget Zakir Majeed, he is never coming back.”

While she was still in Khuzdar, a fresh wave of killing and dumping of bodies started.

They found Ghaffar Lango’s body.

Lango, father of five daughters and a son, had been missing for three years. He was found near Gadani, his head full of wounds inflicted with a blunt weapon.

Then they found Sameer Rind’s body.

Rind was 24 and missing for a year. His sister had been campaigning along with Farzana.

Then Jalil Reiki’s body was dumped.

Jalil had been missing for two years. His father Qadeer Baloch had been organising all the protests.

Then Sana Sangat’s body was found.

Sana had been missing for three years. His body had 28 bullets in it.

All were Zakir Majeed’s comrades, all were killed after years of captivity. Their bodies told stories of unspeakable brutalities.

Farzana’s life is built around demanding an end to these stories.

Farzana changed her phone number, left Khuzdar and went back to the protest camp.

For the first two years, Farzana and her family kept getting messages from Zakir Majeed. She has a mental picture of her brother and his whereabouts. He is in a dungeon, with his other friends. “He was kept in Quli Camp. Other people who were kept in that camp and released brought us his messages,” says Farzana. But she hasn’t received any message for the last six or seven months. “He used to send us his love. He took the buttons off his shirt and sent us, to reassure us that he was alive.”

Farzana speaks without any bitterness, in a matter of fact way even when she is rattling off the names of her brother Zakir Majeed’s dead colleagues and the number of wounds on their bodies. But she gets angry when she talks about herself. “Look at me. I am 27 years old. Zakir is now 25. I want my life. I have my needs. What kind of life is this? I am spending all my life at protest camps in the hope that they’ll not kill my brother? What kind of life is this?”

She has given up on the state of Pakistan and its people. “Isn’t it quite obvious that they hate us Baloch people? If Zakir has committed a crime why don’t they bring him to a court, put him on trial, and punish him? Why are they punishing the whole family, the whole nation?”

How does she spend her time at the protest camps? “I read,” she says. “Books about politics.  Books about revolutionaries. I have read Che Guevera’s biography.  I have read Spartacus. I am currently reading Musa Se Marx Tak. I am learning. I am learning about revolutions and other people’s struggles.”

Mohammed Hanif’s pamphlet The Baloch Who is Not Missing and Other Who Are is published by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • Nauman
    Feb 14, 2013 - 9:37AM

    Dear Kayani. We have experienced the failure of these tactics before. Why make the same mistake twice. Military men are good with one thing…the “hammer,” unfortunately not every problem is a “nail.” Not even sure you care about Pakistan anymore….as long a your pension is preserved.

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  • Nabeel
    Feb 14, 2013 - 10:32AM

    The heart goes out for Farzana. I know i can’t do anything but i would love to bring her brother back and many other missing baloch brother’s and sons. If Baloch hate us they do have all the right to hate us.

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  • M
    Feb 14, 2013 - 11:21AM

    Oh my Sister Farzana, I cannot even comprehend what you are going through. I am ethnically Punjabi but that doesn’t matter, like you I am Pakistani and my heart bleeds for you. I don’t know what to say, but you are now in my thoughts and prayers. Be strong my sister, be strong. You are a symbol of unimaginable courage and strength and in doing so you are already defeating your enemies, our enemies. There is a light at the end of every dark tunnel, always remember that light.

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  • Asma Nasib
    Feb 14, 2013 - 12:24PM

    This article indeed tells the love and affection of a sister to her brother! but to name it above the missing persons. Who are the missing persons? why they were missed from the stream? who is responsible? these are the questions that need to be asked to the authorities concerned. I am also with Farzana! we need to change the system! where is the democracy! if this prevails than why there is no action on her writ? why people are giving lam excuses to her? I am so sorry farzana! Allah gave u courage and gave u strength that u and like many others will sustain and get the real INSAAF!! GOD bless u!

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  • Aijaz Haider
    Feb 14, 2013 - 12:29PM

    Let’s pray with her and her mother that his brother comes back home alongwith all other missing persons. SC must take notice of this issue.

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  • MK
    Feb 14, 2013 - 12:47PM

    Thoughts and prayers with you Farzana and all the other Farzana’s out there. I hope you find peace.

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  • Feb 14, 2013 - 1:55PM

    Only and bold writing about Baluchistan situation are written by M. Hanif. so there is no doubt, because that type of heavy human cases cant indicate by main stream media. it is only one who break the Ice daily without fear. Yes he is fearless.

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  • Ghaffar Baloch
    Feb 14, 2013 - 2:57PM

    Same tactics being applied in Balochistan that caused the independence of Bangladesh. But alas! Stubborn military mindset are deprived of learning lessons from the past making ways of future dismal.

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  • islooboy
    Feb 14, 2013 - 3:59PM

    @Ghaffar Baloch:
    bangladesh was supported by india and russia any support for balochistan? bangladesh population was 52% of pakistan balochistan is 3% do the math

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  • Khan
    Feb 14, 2013 - 6:37PM

    What do they say when they find most of the missing persons are willingly being trained in capms in kandahar for anti Pakistan activities?why they do not protest when BLA, BLF kill innocent people and migrants?why dnt they protest when innocent labours are killed by BLA and BLF?The need of hour is that all Baloch Nationalist parties should come forward and take active part in upcoming elections and get the Baloch people all their rights through legislation and constitution of Pakistan.Balochs are the most patriotic people and thousands are serving the motherland in all three Armed Forces especially Army.

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  • baloch
    Feb 14, 2013 - 7:43PM

    oh my sister i am with you and inshallah Zaki will come home.

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  • HRK
    Feb 14, 2013 - 8:55PM

    Sister Farzana, as Pakistanis our heart goes out for you. May Allah bless you with patience and shower his mercy upon your family and may your brother return back soon.

    Our govt and law enforcement institutions should be ashamed of these incidents and be sorry for what they’re turning this country into.

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  • Ali Baloch
    Feb 14, 2013 - 9:38PM

    @Isloo Boy you keep telling yourself that all the while the BLA which in 1998 was a rag tag association of 60 people is now a Guerrilla force of 70,000. The size of population doesn’t matter it’s the will of the people to accept your rule. Pakistanis keep telling themselves that in 71 India supported Bengalis they were very far it wont happen again. In 2011 USA came and Killed Bin Laden and the “Mighty” Army of Pakistan was helpless. If they decide yo breakup Pakistan they can very well do so and you and the rest of your type will only find solace in the empty rhetoric of Zaid Hamid and company all the while the Baloch people will welcome Americans as saviors and they will be justifiable in doing so.

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  • Ali Baloch
    Feb 14, 2013 - 9:49PM

    @Khan I think you need to get your head out of the sand I’ve been listening to these same lies since 2003 that Pakistan has proof then what is stopping Pakistan? The only camps in Afghanistan are of Bugti and Marri refugees they hardly have enough to eat, let alone wage a full fledged Guerrilla war against the 5th biggest Army in the world!. Like always it’s the entire worlds fault but not Pakistan’s. If the Army is so innocent then why was the entire country up in arms against the FC when they killed the Chechens? or is it that the blood of every non Baloch is sacred and we are just good for target practice and testing new ways of torture?
    The Army claims that its all cross border terrorism if terrorists are crossing border then what are 135000 armed servicemen doing in that Province? Playing hockey or gathering bhatta from innocent people or making sure there is a sizable community of “Missing persons”?

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  • Umar
    Feb 14, 2013 - 10:49PM

    My dear sister I cann’t hold my tear back. I couldn’t believe that this is pak armys behaviour towards baloch people. Allahu Akbar my heart want really to cry. I really don’t know what to say. I’m sure if the pakistani army can kill and kidnap muslims in balochistan then they can also do it in LOC(KASHMIR SIDE OF INDIA) we all know what pakistan army did towards bangladeshi sisters. Wallahi sister if I ever came to a position where I got power then I will of course help you.

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  • Khan Ali
    Feb 15, 2013 - 1:06AM

    Judtice delayed justice denied, Farzana and other baloch ppl whose loved one’s are missing must be provided justice. We want justice for them and 4 every oppressed ppl or community of Pakistan. Proud of u sister, we are with u. May God save ur brother…

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