1000 Unique Days of Peaceful Protest

The Voice for Missing Baloch Persons (V.M.B.P.), on December 19, completed 1000 days of consecutive peaceful protest against enforced disappearances torture and brutal killing of Baloch citizens by Pakistani security forces. What was indeed an absolutely unique and prolonged protest of historic proportion, the landmark struggle of those consistently fighting for justice was barely covered by the Pakistani media.

While the past 1000 days can be recounted as the days of patience, courage and peaceful struggle mostly from the family members and relatives of those who have been subjected to disappearance, these days can also be described as the 1000 days of stark failure of the federal and the provincial governments, the powerful judiciary, the international community and global human rights organizations to end the agonizing cycle of disappearances and murder in Balochistan.

In Karachi, the V.M.B.P. took out a grand peaceful rally on the completion of 1000 days of its protest in another attempt to gain the attention of the rest of the country about those Baloch people who have still not returned home despite repeated government promises and assurances. The protest in Karachi, similar to many of its pattern in the past, demonstrated the fact that the Baloch people put forward their demands through peaceful means. The government, on its part, has paid scant attention to such methods of protest. The government does not only owe the Baloch people an explanation about the whereabouts of those who have been whisked away and kept in illegal detention centers but it also owes a clarification about its involvement and support for the killing of nearly six hundred people who were killed and dumped after being kidnapped and tortured.

The Supreme Court recently ordered the Balochistan government to compensate the families of those who have been killed in the Balochistan unrest, a demand the Chief Minister, Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, has apparently agreed to follow. However, we support the demand put forward by the Baloch nationalists that this decision should further be extended to those whose loved ones are missing or were killed after being disappeared.

The issue of the missing persons has indeed emerged as the most pressing issue in Balochistan. It is enormously contributed to public alienation from state institutions and the justice system. The federal and provincial governments have kept the issue in a cold storage while the Supreme Court has emerged as the sole champion of the rights of the disappeared people. In year 2012, the issue drew more media attention and debate than ever before. The apex court heard a long case on the missing person’s plight and made a genuine effort to bring all big guns, ranging from the top officials of the Frontier Corps to the Balochistan government representatives, to probe the whereabouts of the missing persons. The Chief Justice, however, turned out to a paper tiger when he refused to meet with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances which showed that the top judge did not want to irk the prime suspects of these rights abuses (Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies) by educating them about the real culprits in Balochistan.

What still remains under question is not the Supreme Court’s integrity and commitment to the recovery of the missing persons.  But, with the passage of time, it is clear that the top court’s ability to punish those responsible for committing rights abuses in Balochistan can be questioned. There were two occasions when some people thought that the Supreme Court should feel more confident and ready to act but opportunities were wasted again and again.

In the first place, former chief minister of Balochistan, Sardar Akhtar Mengal, appeared before the Supreme Court in September 2012 to testify before the court about the missing persons, hoping that his initiative would assist the court in understanding the conflict in Balochistan. Secondly, the Balochistan Police also endeavored to be as truthful as it could by providing evidence to the top court about the involvement of the Frontier Corps in the kidnapping of Baloch youths. The enormous wealth of information and evidence, unfortunately, did not culminate into a breakthrough. Instead of coming hard on the intelligence agencies and the security forces, the Supreme Court turned its guns against the Balochistan government and insisted that it had lost its constitutional legitimacy.

The leaders of the V.M.B.P. have have remained under regular threats. They have been asked to give up their strike or face physical elimination. By continuing their struggle despite the challenges, these men and women have demonstrated extraordinary courage and perseverance  in their peaceful quest for justice. They have set a remarkable precedence of a non-violent  rights-based movement.

The international community should pressurize Pakistan to do something so that these suffering families do not have to wait for another 1000 days to see their loved family members. In return of their steadfast democratic struggle, they now deserve days of reunion and perpetual happiness.

This editorial was originally published in The Baloch Hal on December 22, 2012


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