Children of the conflict
By Malik Siraj Akbar
With the commencement of the new year, 2010, children of the missing Baloch persons have established a hunger strike camp in front of Quetta Press Club. The composition of the camp is very diverse. These children come from different districts of Balochistan. Their ‘missing’ parents also belong to varying age brackets and professions. While many children of this age are busy studying at schools and colleges or preparing for their annual examinations, children of these disappeared people are spending their days in extreme chill inside the hunger strike camp. They hold the photographs of their dear ones and look at every visitor with the anticipation to bring them some ‘good news’. They do not go to school or colleges but look for their missing ones.
Arranged by an organization called Voice for the Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), this camp, which entered its fourth day on January 3rd, is surely not the first one intended to raise voice for those who disappeared. During the past five years, the relatives of missing persons have organized plethora of such camps. These camps were held in various districts in front of press clubs and the buildings of the country’s Supreme Court and the high courts. There is one thing in common among all these methods of expostulation: The protestors never get weary of struggling for getting justice and the government was never embarrassed over such forms of protest.
Some ‘crimes’ fail to appear as crimes once they are brazenly and excessively repeated. The issue of enforced disappearances tops the list of such crimes.
The newly established camp in front of Quetta Press Club comprises of those whose loved ones were whisked away allegedly by the state intelligence agencies during the military regime of General Pervez Musharraf. But there are also the ones like Dr. Din Mohammad Marri, Jalil Reki, Zakir Majeed, Attaullah Baloch, Kabir Baloch, Master Yahay and several others who went ‘missing’ during the so-called democratic government of the Pakistan People’s Party. This clearly indicates that fact that enforced disappearances have not stopped in Balochistan. These cases have intensified in the recent times. There is only significant development: The human rights organizations such as the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other reputed bodies have ceased to take the issue as enthusiastically as was done in the past, complain the protestors.
Some organizations dedicated to human rights and lawyers’ bodies cooperated with the families of the missing persons only during the judicial movement which was intended to reinstate the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary. Many stopped talking about the growing cases of disappearances in Balochistan after the exit of Musharraf and restoration of the sacked chief justice. It gave the impression that some groups only used the ‘missing persons’ card’ to gain support for the judicial movement. Now, they do not raise the issue in the same old style as they presumably consider it as an act which might contradict their earlier participation in the judicial movement. They falsely believe speaking for the rights of the missing persons amounts to speaking against Justice Chaudhary, the chief justice of Pakistan.
On its part, the HRCP has disappointingly not played its due role as a pressure group. The sole excuse the officials of the country’s foremost human rights body have is that the exact number of the missing persons is unknown. The Baloch nationalists claim that as many as four to eight thousand Balochs have disappeared during the past five years. On the other hand, the HRCP says it has not received a verified list.
As a matter of fact the exact number of missing persons should not become a stumbling block before the HRCP and other human rights organizations from playing their due role for the recovery of the disappeared people. Even if credible information about only five people is available, work should start from there to at least locate these five people.
The presence of irrefutable evidence that Baloch political activists and ordinary citizens have been whisked away after the exit of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorial regime should be taken as a grave reminder that this heinous practice has some solid institutional backing. Someone from somewhere is encouraging the disappearances of Balochs. More importantly, one is startled to see why this practice is so much Baloch-specific. No member of any other ethnic community has gone missing from Balochistan out of these thousands of missing persons. Therefore, this issue can not be taken so simplistically.
Neither it is the first time that children in Balochistan have come in the streets to demand the release of their relatives nor have Baloch women walked out of their homes for the first time. The steadfast struggle of these family members of the missing persons is indeed laudable. This is undeniably an unparallel democratic struggle. The champions of judicial movement or anti-Musharraf regime stopped their struggle after the attainment of their goals i.e access to the ruling quarters and the Court Room No 1.
The only untiring and impressive democratic struggle that refuses to fade away is the one initiated by the women and children of the missing persons. Unlike the political parties, these families are becoming united day by day. Their unity and interactions are continuously expanding.
Considering the plight of the missing person’s families, one can at least suggest the human rights bodies, civil society organizations and the media to once again jump in the ground for a renewed phase of struggle for the recovery of the missing persons. They should review their false conclusions that the struggle is over.
The children of missing persons, with the establishment of a new hunger strike camp, in Balochistan have sent a clear message to the whole country on the even of the new year that struggle must continue until justice is granted to every family that has been agonized by the flawed state institutions and defective policies.
The Baloch Hal is the first Online English newspaper of Balochistan