• By Faiq Ali Shah

In the early 2000s, the specter of forced disappearances cast a long shadow over Pakistan, particularly in the tumultuous region of Balochistan. The genesis of this issue can be traced back to the aftermath of the US attack on Afghanistan, which set off a chain reaction of events leading to the disappearance of workers and sympathizers affiliated with religious and nationalist parties.

After the death of nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in a military operation in Balochistan, the situation took a dark turn. It was during this tumultuous period that disappearances gained unprecedented momentum. One of the prominent voices raised against these injustices was Karima Baloch who was a shining star in the struggle for Baloch rights. His untimely death in Canada in December 2020 sent shockwaves through the Baloch nation, creating a void that Dr Meh Rang Baloch from Kalat stepped forward to fill.

Mah Rang Baloch, whose father faced enforced disappearance in 2006, later found dead in 2011, and whose brother allegedly disappeared in 2016, embarked on a courageous journey with the Baloch Solidarity March. This 1600 km march, reminiscent of historical women leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi, is not just a protest; it is a testament to the resilience of a people refusing to be silenced.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, established in 2010, aims to prevent disappearances, uncover the truth, and ensure justice, truth, and reparation. Despite its strength, Pakistan has not ratified this convention, raising questions about the government’s commitment to addressing the issue. Amnesty International’s definition of enforced disappearances as individuals practically vanishing after being picked up by state officials who refuse to disclose their whereabouts underscores the gravity of the situation.

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar Haq Kakar’s denial of allegations of enforced disappearances reflects the larger problem of the state’s reluctance to acknowledge and address the issue. Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that in balochistan I will talk to powerful institutions, it shows that the Prime Minister does not have power, so which institutions have more power than the Prime Minister? The historical context provided by the “Voice for Missing Baloch Persons” march led by Abdul Qadir Baloch in 2013 serves as a poignant reminder of the personal toll these disappearances take on families.

Since December 2023 Baloch people have been peacefully protesting in front of Islamabad Press Club through “Baloch Unity March”. March, despite facing numerous challenges from the state, persevered, reached Islamabad against the odds. In the state of Pakistan, people do not have the right to peaceful protest? Pakistani national media did not adopt a fair journalistic narrative regarding this march. Which raises concerns about journalistic fairness and the wider implications of media censorship in a democratic society.

In a democratic state, the right to peaceful protest should be upheld as a fundamental expression of civil liberties. The Baloch Solidarity March is not merely a collection of grievances; it is a heartfelt plea for justice, demanding the state’s attention to the plight of the missing persons. (Why not state ready to accept their demands? If their demands are unfounded, why does the state of Pakistan not sit with its oppressed?) As the state becomes hollow, as Leon Trotsky remarked, its terror increases, and the Baloch nation persists in its quest for justice, echoing the sentiment that while a person can be silenced, their ideology remains resilient. The shadows cast by forced disappearances in Balochistan are not easily dispelled, but the Baloch Solidarity March stands as a beacon of hope and resilience against the prevailing darkness.

The Baloch solidarity march not only challenges the indifference of the state but also challenges the conscience of the international community which cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the violation of basic human rights. Baloch nation is dialect; Now is the time for the world to listen, stand in solidarity, and work towards a future where enforced disappearances are consigned to the dark annals of history, and justice prevails.

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