Thursday 27 February 2014

Baloch marches reach Rawalpindi

27 Feb 2014
Despite threats and intimidation, Qadir Baloch who founded the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons in 2009 and his small band of followers made it to Rawalpindi on Thursday, to demand justice for their loved ones. Journalist Hamid Mir of Geo TV who walked with them a few days ago, wrote in The News that Baloch, aged 72, and 11-year- old Ali Haider Baloch, the youngest marcher had made history by travelling more than 2,000 km on foot along with a group of women and men from Quetta en route Islamabad. Mr. Mir said they broke the 84-year-old record of Mahatma Gandhi who walked 390 km from Ahmedabad to Dandi as part of his famous salt march.

Mr. Baloch may not be aware of any records he has set, but he is clear about getting justice for the enforced disappearances of young men and even women whose details he has documented as part of his work. The marchers who were greeted by members of the Awami Workers Party and civil society groups hope to present their demands to the United Nations in Islamabad in a day and intend to ask the world body to help in the recovery of missing persons.

The march began in October last year and is set to end soon but the marchers have not had it easy. Recently civil society organizations, networks and individual rights activists across Pakistan had expressed outrage over the news that Mr. Baloch was receiving threats and that the Long March from Quetta to Islamabad, now in its last stage, was in imminent danger. A statement released last Wednesday said that Mr. Baloch had received a threatening telephone call from an unlisted number, informing him of the decision to prevent the marchers from entering Rawalpindi and Islamabad and warning them that they will not be allowed to present their demands to the United Nations.

 Mr. Baloch appealed to civil society and media to convey to the government that their march is Constitutional, legal, peaceful and non-violent, aiming to highlight the plight of the missing persons and serious notice should be taken of the threats. He has documented 18,000 missing persons since 2001 of those picked up by security agencies. In some cases, they don't come back for ten years, sometimes they never do and their bodies are dumped here and there with slips of paper on which their names are written, in their pockets.

 Mr. Baloch's son Jalil, 30, a political worker with the Baloch Republican Party was picked up and three years later his dead body was found in a village bordering Iran. A list of 14,000 missing people was also submitted to the Supreme Court. He has records of 1,500 bodies which were dumped. Most of those missing are young men, but there were some children and 170 women.

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