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FOCUS March 2014 Volume Volume 75

Balochistan's Missing Persons*

Kiran Nazish

In Balochistan, a resource-rich province of Pakistan, thousands of innocent civilians, suspected militants and activists are missing. Locals say the missing individuals have been abducted by Pakistan’s military and associated forces as a way to suppress and subjugate the Baloch people. There is disagreement on the actual number of missing persons. An association for peaceful protest formed by some of the families of those missing, called the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP), says that up to eighteen thousand Baloch are currently unaccounted for, of whom more than two thousand were killed between 2001 to 2013. That figure is much higher than data from other non-governmental organizations and human rights organizations, but the IVBMP says it will be publishing details of all its data early next year.
In October 2013, in an effort to draw international attention to the humanitarian crisis, the IVBMP began a long march from Quetta to Islamabad. About twenty families of persons believed abducted and killed by the Pakistan military, mostly women, are taking part. Unfortunately, the march has received scant coverage from media, either within Pakistan or internationally.
The Diplomat has spoken to dozens of victims and interviewed IVBMP members during their march near Quetta and Karachi.
IVBMP was formed to speak out about missing sons and brothers, urging the media and government to investigate. It has coordinators in every district in Balochistan, who report and record every abduction, torture and murder. They then send the data to human rights groups, media and the United Nations.
Although the abductions started in the 1970s, Mama Qadeer Baloch says, “Things got worse in 2001, when General Pervez Musharraf came to power. He started a much [...] speedier policy against Baloch activists and also martyred a respected and beloved Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti.” Qadeer says that abductions, hatred and political murders all increased around this time.
Later, under then President Asif Ali Zardari, bloodied, mutilated bodies were dumped in different parts of Balochistan, claims Qadeer.
He recalls that during Zardari’s term, then Interior Minister Rehman Malik visited Balochistan and warned of a crackdown. Qadeer continues, “Frontier Corps (FC) uniformed men, come, pick up our sons. And the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] and MI [Military Intelligence] also come in civil clothing, raid our homes, pick up our boys from colleges, schools and neighbourhood. Whenever they fear our students will fight back, they bring in the FC’s uniformed forces to control the situation. They have treated our educated lot the most horribly. This includes doctors, thinkers, lawyers, professors, and especially journalists.”
Qadeer’s son, Jaleel Reki Baloch, 23 was killed three years after he was taken. He was abducted from the front door of his home in Quetta, on 13 February 2009, after returning from Friday prayers with friends. Eyewitnesses told The Diplomat that there were four unmarked cars with two FC pickup trucks. Nearby shopkeepers, Reki’s friends, cobblers, vegetable vendors and other people in the neighborhood all witnessed the abduction, which they claim was done by the ISI. Reki was a political activist working towards a Baloch movement for liberation. His abduction and killing present an example to many other Baloch activists, and many locals say that they asked their sons to leave such political groups when they saw his mutilated corpse return home three years later.
Reki’s body was riddled with bullets. Holes had been drilled into his bones and joints. Burn marks were strewn across his back. Eyewitnesses accused the ISI, as did the then chief minister of Balochistan Aslam Raisani, in a statement presented in the High Court. Despite the evidence, the law has not helped his son, complains Qadeer. It is because of this fear and absence of justice that political workers are now unable to live a normal life in the cities. Anyone involved in the Baloch movement now either lives in the mountains or lives abroad, mostly in Europe, Australia, England or Canada.

Kiran Nazish is an award- winning Pakistani journalist who has worked for several years as a producer and editor for television, radio and print.

For further information, please contact Kiran Nazish at @kirannazish

* This is an edited excerpt of the article of the same title that appeared in the 6 January 2014 issue of The Diplomat. Full article available at http://thediplomat.com/2014/01/balochistans-missing-persons/.

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