Long march for the Missing: Balochistan

Balochistan, a resource-rich region, divided between Pakistan and Iran and home to a strong nationalist movement, is also Pakistan’s least developed and insurgency-hit province. Since the 1970s, Balochistan has seen thousands of their people go missing, allegedly, abducted by Pakistan’s military or other associated actors, in order to subdue the nationalist movement.

Balochistan_feat

Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan
Photo by: Waqas Usman, Wikipedia

 

The International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP), an association for peaceful protest formed by some of the families of those missing, began in October 2013 a 2200 km march from Quetta to Islamabad, in an effort to draw attention to this humanitarian crisis. About 20 families of persons believed abducted and killed, mostly women, are taking part in the march that is expected to end in February 2014.   

Some of the participants state that the march has received unfortunately very low coverage from media; some think that this could be due to fears of reprisal.

Although Pakistani authorities deny their involvement in abducting or killing Baloch, the Balochistan provincial government has recently highlighted the issue of Baloch missing persons. Early this month Dr. Abdul Malik, Chief Minister of Balochistan, admitted that his government had failed to solve the issue of disappearances and announced that the recovery of missing persons was top priority of his government.

The provincial government has given its own figures of those missing, but the IVBMP’s chairman said that the officials were deliberately showing less number of missing persons. In fact, the IVBMP, formed in 2009, would have coordinators in various districts in Balochistan, who record abductions and murders. According to the IVBMP numbers, up to 18,000 Baloch are currently unaccounted for; other sources claim that around 6,000 persons have gone missing after being arrested.

Although the abductions started in the 1970s, things would have gotten worse after 2001 with a stronger policy against Baloch activists by the authorities of Pakistan. Uniformed men, or in civil clothing, are reported by witnesses to pick up boys from colleges and schools.  Doctors, thinkers, lawyers, professors, and especially journalists have been reportedly the target of abductions and often torture.

For more information: http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/balochistans-missing-persons/