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Baluch activists stage long march to protest thousands allegedly abducted by Pakistani forces


ADANI, Pakistan — Fifteen year-old Sammi Baluch has been walking for nearly a month through southern Pakistan’s parched, mountainous landscape in the hope of finding her father, who disappeared four years ago after being taken by security forces.

She is part of a group of around two dozen activists making the 700-kilometer (400-mile) journey on foot from Quetta, the capital of their home province of Baluchistan, to the southern port city of Karachi in a march to protest the government’s failure to determine the fate of thousands of people who have gone missing over the years as Pakistani authorities battle a separatist insurgency in Baluchistan, heartland of the country’s ethnic Baluch minority.

Pakistani human rights organizations and Baluchistan residents have long accused law enforcement and intelligence agencies of snatching citizens suspected of Baluch nationalist activity and holding them without charges or killing them. Officials deny the allegations, and while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to resolve the issue of the missing as part of a still nascent peace effort in the province, so far commissions set up by the government and Supreme Court have made little progress.

The marchers, who are all missing loved ones, left Quetta on Oct. 27 and are about 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Karachi. Along the way, they say they have experienced the generosity of strangers who fed and housed them, but also faced threats from Pakistani security forces warning them to stop their march.

“I have travelled 600 kilometers (370 miles) by foot without caring about my blistered feet,” said Baluch. Her father, a doctor, was a member of a Baluch nationalist party. He has vanished since he was picked up security forces at the government hospital where he works one night in June 2009.

“Please have mercy and help me recover my missing father,” Baluch said.

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