Baloch families march 700 km to seek justice for missing relatives

People have walked for nearly a month for their family members who have disappeared in Balochistan.

Afp November 21, 2013
Pakistani Baloch families carry photographs of missing Balochs at Hub district as they march towards Karachi from Quetta. PHOTO: AFP

HUB: After 700 kilometres of walking across scorched, arid plains, some two dozen women from Balochistan are nearing the end of their march to seek justice for missing loved ones.

For nearly a month they have walked for their brothers, sons and husbands who have disappeared, allegedly at the hands of Pakistan's security services.

Tired of waiting for justice - or even news of their loved ones' fate - the women have undertaken an unprecedented march from Quetta to Karachi, some 700 kilometres (430 miles) away.

On Thursday they reached Hub, the last town of the huge, impoverished province before Karachi.

"There is no other way to raise our voice except this march," said Khadija Baloch, the sister of a missing youth, her infant daughter in her lap as she looked around with piercing bright eyes.

The latest armed insurgency rose up in 2004 and militant groups still regularly carry out attacks on Pakistani forces.

Human rights groups have accused security forces and intelligence agencies of serious abuses, particularly kidnapping and even killing suspected rebels before leaving their bodies by the roadside.

According to Human Rights Watch, more than 300 people have suffered similar fate - known as "kill and dump" - in Balochistan since January 2011.

The security services deny the allegations and say they are battling a fierce rebellion in the province, which is also an important smuggling route for heroin from Afghanistan.

The brother of Farzana Mujeeb Baloch, Zakir, had disappeared in June 2009. His family heard nothing until 2011 when another activist arrested with him was released.

"But for the last two years we have no idea where he is," she told AFP. "It is my struggle to get my brother released. I have made a thousand protests in the last four years but no-one listens to me."

The march was the idea of former banker Mama Qadir Baloch. Some 20-25 women heard his call and joined the walk, some with children in their arms, their feet clad in cheap plastic sandals ravaged by the hard road and photos of the "disappeared" in their hands.

Qadir's son went missing and in 2011 he found him.

"One of his arms was broken, he had been shot three times, one in the head and two in the chest. His back had been burned with hot iron rods," he said.

"In Balochistan the security agencies and the army kidnap students and militants every day. Not a day goes by when Baloch are not targeted," he alleged.

Last year the Supreme Court quizzed lawyers for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) over missing persons in Balochistan.

But for the families of the missing, the quest for answers goes on and for those who know the fate of their loved ones, the hope that others may have a happier outcome sustains them.

Salma Baloch, the widow of Ghulam Mohammad, an activist whose body was found dumped in 2009, said: "He is gone but there are many fellow Baloch who are in the custody of the agencies."

"And I want that the same thing should never happen to any other family."


Sceptic | 9 years ago | Reply

Many more Punjabi doctors, professors and even labourers have been killed in Quetta than the rebels who have gone missing. Do the marchers have anything to tell their armed Baloch brothers=

Insaan | 9 years ago | Reply

@Waseem: Pakistan army killed 3 million people in East Pakistan/Bangladesh. Most fo them were regular citizens of Pakistan.

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