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Baloch missing persons: a soul rending saga, Pt 1

People view these atrocities disinterestedly because the Baloch missing and dead have been relegated to merely statistical status

The silent anguished cry of the Baloch missing persons and their devastated relatives is loud enough to rend the very soul of humanity, but seemingly, it has no effect on the mainstream society and media here, both deaf to this anguished cry. Society at large and the media either refuse to see what is happening in Balochistan or try to justify the atrocities. All state institutions aid and abet in this crime, forcing the affected people to risk life and limb to express their pain. Little wonder then that in Karachi on February 10, a large Baloch rally carried banners and placards demanding freedom. They carried a large independent Balochistan flag, knowing well that the unforgiving Pakistani state even punishes people who go to receive the dead bodies of abducted people. Gullay, son of Bahar Khan Pirdadani, had received the bodies of relatives — two forcibly disappeared brothers, my former students Mohammad Khan and Mohammad Nabi — and is missing since August 15, 2012. The state does not even want a decent burial for those it kills.

It is commonly but mistakenly believed that the missing persons saga is a recent one. On February 6, 1974, Asadullah Mengal son of Sardar Ataullah Mengal, and Ahmed Shah were abducted by the intelligence agencies and they, like my friend Duleep Dass aka Dali, my Marri friends Sher Ali Ramkani, Bahar Khan Lalwani, Shafi Muhammad Badani, Dost Muhammad Durkani, Allah Baksh and Shah Dost Pirdadani, were never heard of again. Many Baloch from different areas suffered the same fate.

Intellectuals here have largely ignored the missing persons issue; among the few who have given voice to this silent anguished cry, Mohammad Hanif, the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes, is the most prominent and most eloquent. He has written a pamphlet, The Baloch who is not missing and others who are, as a report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). He interviewed relatives of six missing or now not missing persons to present the problem poignantly. It is a soul-rending account of the pain, deceptions and disappointments that relatives suffer. Probably, like other reports that expose the atrocities, it will be labelled as ‘a pack of lies’ by the ISPR. This piece is based on Hanif’s pamphlet.

Jaleel Reki, son of Qadeer Baloch, was the information secretary of the Baloch Republican Party. His two-year-old son had a hole in the heart. He was campaigning for missing colleagues; his friends had warned him that he was about to be picked up, but he said, “If I run away who is going to write all the press releases?” Then one day they came and he became a missing person for nearly three years. During that period, he once spoke to his family when a soldier let him talk after having his mobile recharged for Rs1,000 by family.

People view these atrocities disinterestedly because the Baloch missing and dead have been relegated to merely statistical status. However, for Qadeer, now vice-chairman of the Voice of Baloch Missing People (VBMP), his son Jalil was not just a statistic and he did his utmost for his recovery. Qadeer nominated General Pasha in his FIR. Once a Colonel came up to him and said they felt bad for him, and if his son was only a political activist he would be released. Two years and three months after disappearance, a few days before Eid-ul-Azha, Jalil stopped being a missing person and became a shot-in-the-heart dead person; his body was found in Turbat. There were three bullets in and around his heart. Qadeer was offered help for the funeral by the state. He said, “Your job was to take him away. Your job was to kill him. You have done your job. I can do the rest myself.” Then Qadeer did something that no family man should have to do. He held his five-year-old grandson’s hand and took him to see his dead father’s body. He made sure that the child got a good look at his father’s bullet-riddled, badly mutilated body. He also talked to the boy and told him who had killed his father and why. Pakistan does this to the Baloch and then expects them to sing its paeans.

Bilal Mengal was an honorary journalist in Nushki, with nine children to feed, who on a Colonel’s offer became a uniform-making contractor at the army’s Nushki Fort. He did not know it would cost him his favourite son Khalid who he took with him to help stitch. The standing orders at the fort were no officer or soldier could go out without express permission due to the danger of attacks. One day, Naib Subedar Ramzan violated orders and was injured in firing. The incident occurred at 6:15 and Bilal left the fort at 7:30 but was arrested for the incident. The trial went on for 10 months, and one day other prisoners told him that his son Khalid was picked up. Khalid returned after 25 days but that was not the end of story; on the night of May 16, 2011, his house was raided and his sons Khalid and Murtaza were taken away. From the roof of his house he saw those vehicles enter the fort. Bilal asked the police station’s SHO to help, who followed until the gate but was turned back. He filed an FIR, and began a hunger strike, then filed a petition in the Balochistan High Court (BHC). He managed to wrangle a meeting with the PSO of Quetta’s Corps Commander, which ended in confusion as instead of being helped, was told that he, Bilal, was sentenced to 25 years and should be in jail. Bilal appeared in the Supreme Court hearings initiated by the Chief Justice but did not seem to have much faith. “The Chief Justice comes here only to keep up appearances. He is only concerned about saving his own face. Nothing has changed, nothing will change.” Khalid is still missing.

Farzana Majeed, elder sister of the missing Zakir Majeed, represents the new face and phase of the Baloch struggle. Never before have Baloch women participated so actively and extensively; state atrocities have forced them into this role. Farzana has done her Masters in Biochemistry from Balochistan University and is enrolled in the M Phil programme. But instead of attending classes and working in a laboratory, she sits at protest camps demanding the release of her brother. Zakir was the vice president of the Baloch Students Organisation (Azad), a nationalist students organization, and a student of Masters in English. He was returning from Mastung with friends when they were apprehended by intelligence personnel. His friends were released soon and they informed Farzana; TV channels too carried the news. Zakir’s brother filed an FIR in Mastung. Farzana was worried about their ailing mother but had to eventually tell her; the lady broke down and started praying and is still praying.

Farzana filed a writ petition in the BHC, and she has since joined protest camps everywhere, hoping to highlight her brother’s disappearance. She camped at Islamabad with Mama Qadeer and met Justice Javaid Iqbal who told her what he has told every other Baloch family: shut down the protest camp, go home and your family members will be with you within a week. Hanif says, “Javaid Iqbal has played a curious role in perpetuating this nightmare. He has made so many false promises to so many families that many see him as part of the problem.”

Farzana returned to her hometown Khuzdar and started receiving calls that Zakir would never return. Then the bodies of Zakir’s missing comrades began cropping up at regular intervals. They found Ghaffar Lango’s body, then Sameer Rind, Jalil Reiki, Sana Sangat’s body, which had 28 bullets in it. For two years, they kept getting news about him but a year and a half ago that stopped. Farzana has given up on the Pakistani state and its people. She says. “Isn’t it quite obvious that they hate us Baloch people? If Zakir has committed a crime, why don’t they bring him to a court, put him on trial, and punish him? Why are they punishing the whole family, the whole nation?” At the protest camps, she spends her time reading books about revolutionaries and politics like Che Guevara’s biography, Spartacus and Musa Se Marx Tak to learn about revolutions and other peoples’ struggles.

(To be continued)

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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