February 11th, 2022
By Hamid Riaz
Civil Society, local youth, friends of Hafeez Baloch accompanied by scores of his students took out a protest rally in the city center of Khuzdar, today on February 11 to demand the immediate release of the local scholar. The protestors started gathering at Khuzdar’s Shaheed Razzak Chowk at 3 in the afternoon and proceeded to march towards the district court where they staged a brief sit-in before making their way back to the Shaheed Razzak Chowk where they finally dispersed after “discussions” with the administrations.
Chanting “Free our teacher” & “Give us education, not imprisonment” the protestors blocked the main road in front of the district court. “The police have been trying to get the protestors to vacate the site because this is the main road but up until now no one here wants to leave,” a local source present on the scene told VoicePk.net.
The participants of the sit-in then conducted another protest rally back to their original starting point before dispersing peacefully. But have vowed to continue their protest campaign until the release of Hafeez Baloch. “The participants of the sit-in especially Hafeez’s students are determined to continue their struggle for his release. We are planning a hunger strike outside the district court if Hafeez is not released soon,” said Imran Baloch, a childhood friend of Hafeez and one of the main organizers of today’s walk.
Hafeez Baloch a final year Mphill student currently enrolled at the Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU), Islamabad has been missing since he was picked up by masked plainclothesmen from Khuzdar on February 8. According to close associates and friends of Hafeez, he was busy teaching mathematics to intermediate students at a local tuition center in Khuzdar at the time of the abduction.
“We were together till late at night on February 7 (the night before the incident). We had food and talked about a preparation plan for the upcoming exams for public sector lectureship jobs,” recalls Imran Baloch, a childhood friend of Hafeez and one of the main organizers of today’s walk.
According to sources close to Hafeez, the physics scholar was busy teaching at the tuition center when a vehicle carrying a group of 3-4 masked men stopped outside the gate at about 4 pm. “They knew exactly who they were looking for. They asked the security guard at the gate about the exact classroom Hafeez was supposed to be teaching in at the moment. Upon spotting him they immediately rushed towards him and declared ‘your time is up’ after which they proceeded to abduct him right in front of his young students,” explains Imran.
Hafeez had returned home a week ago from QAU after about 8 months because he “wanted to be closer to his mother.”
Our only demand is that you pray for his early return
Hafeez Baloch was born in Khuzdar to a lower-middle-class family. His father is a farmer while all three of his brothers are junior-level government employees, who are purportedly apolitical.
Keeping away from the protest, instead, they have requested everyone to pray for his release instead.
Educationist not terrorist
Friends and close associates of Hafeez Baloch talk about his unfettered love for attaining and spreading knowledge. “After our masters, most of our friends including me stopped pursuing further education because being from lower-middle-class backgrounds we were in urgent need of jobs. Not Hafeez. He always said that he would rather starve than abandon his studies. And he stayed true to his word,” explains Imran.
Hafeez’s friends recall him taking large amounts of dates with him whenever he went to Islamabad because it was a cheaper alternative to the expensive city cuisine.
“Whenever he came to Khuzdar he used to give tuitions to local children, helped them prepare for university entrance exams because he wanted the children of his area to move ahead in life. My friend was an educationist, not a terrorist,” concludes Imran.