May 4th, 2021

By Hamid Riaz


LAHORE

A ray of light broke through a dark cloud of despair on Tuesday, April 4, as the first among 13 missing Baloch, returned home.

The release of these missing persons had been assured by Prime Minister Imran Khan during a meeting with their families in March, when they were protesting outside the parliament.

Hizbullah Qambrani,  the cousin of a noted Baloch activist Haseeba Qambrani, returned to his family, in a fragile physical state. Hizbullah had been forcibly picked up on the night of February 14, 2020 and has spent almost 14 months in detention. Haseeba’s brother, Hassan, was also picked up within 20 minutes of Hizbullah’s abduction. Hassan is yet to recovered.

Hizbullah’s family told Voicepk.net that although his physical health is in tatters, his mental faculties are very much intact and he appears to be in sound psychological condition unlike many other Baloch victims of enforced disappearances who have returned home a shell of their former selves.

“Words cannot express the happiness I feel at the return of my cousin Hizbullah. Above all, Hizbullah’s return gives me and others like me hope that our loved ones can and will return one day,” Haseeba Qambrani expressed her relief.

The struggle for her cousins’ freedom has been taking a high toll on Haseeba’s mental and physical well-being as well.

“This past year has perhaps been the most difficult period of my life. Living and struggling alone as a woman is an extremely daunting task. I am a polio worker and my job also suffered because of this ordeal. I was also threatened from various quarters for my activism, but I had promised myself that I will keep raising my voice for my brothers even it costs me my life… and I am so glad that my struggle paid off. I hope that others like me, not just from Balochistan but other areas of the country as well, will soon get to greet their loved ones,” she said.

According to Haseeba throughout this year she was not informed of the allegations or crimes of which her brother and cousin were picked up.

The Baloch Missing Persons’ Camp and the meeting with PM Imran Khan

In February 2021, a caravan of families of Baloch missing persons comprising mainly women, made its way to the capital. The families initiated a week’s long and ultimately decisive sit-in at D-Chowk in Islamabad. Initially the government completely ignored the sit-in, but after the protest camp gained hype, several government figures including the Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari finally went to meet the protestors.

Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to meet the affected families and look into their issue if they immediately ended their sit-in. The helpless families quickly obliged. The Premier delayed the meeting but did come and stood by his met them was held in March. During the meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan assured the afflicted families that their loved ones would be released. He also promised to look into the cases of other missing persons beyond the 13 names presented to him by the concerned families.

Today’s return marks the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. The most positive aspect about today’s development is that it may be hinting to a resolution to the ongoing missing persons’ crisis in Pakistan.

“The Prime Minister assured me that all 13 missing persons on the list as well as those not named would be released soon, and it seems that he has stuck by his word for which we are thankful. Hopefully, we will see others returning in the near future as well,” states Nasarullah Baloch, one of the main organizers of the sit-in.

 

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