January 25, 2024

Video: Nadeem Khan
Text: Xari Jalil


QUETTA

Protesting families returned from Islamabad to their home province of Balochistan greeted by an enormous warm-hearted welcome.

Voicepk’s on-ground correspondent Nadeem Khan describes the scene as overwhelming, where a massive crowd surrounded both the main leaders of the protest including Dr Mahrang Baloch – whose father Abdul Ghaffar Langove, a labourer went missing in 2009 and was found dead two years later. She was flanked by Sammi Deen Baloch, whose father Deen Mohammad has also been missing since 2019. Both of the young women have been a prominent voice regarding enforced disappearances and missing persons since a long time, often giving statements through their organization Baloch Yekjehti (Solidarity) Committee (BYC).

Extrajudicial killing of Balaach Mola Bakhsh

The marchers had begun their march from Turbat to protest peacefully and have returned to Balochistan after holding a sit-in outside Islamabad’s National Press Club for a couple of months hoping to hold talks with representatives of the government over the issue. The protest was triggered by the extrajudicial killing of a youth Balaach Mola Bakhsh, who was shot dead in an encounter killing by the Counter Terrorism Department along with three others in November 2023.  This resulted in anguish and rage among the residents of Turbat and a sit-in was held at the Fida Hussain Chowk in Turbat city.

The rally went on a long march from Turbat city to Quetta and from there the marchers took a turn towards the capital city passing through Dera Ismail Khan.

What followed was a blatant attempt at stopping the long march. At some points the protesters were told they could go no further, in the capital city itself, they were attacked by police officers and taken into custody, allegedly for disturbing the peace, sedition, etc.

For 60 days the protestors sat outside the National Press Club, sometimes visited by other leaders in solidarity with their stance, including Manzoor Pashteen, Mohsin Dawar, Afrasiab Khattak, Sardar Akhtar Mengal and others.

Unsuccessful but Undefeated

Not a single JIT or commission was formed to investigate the demands of the protesters. Instead the caretaker Prime Minister – from Balochistan himself – went so far as to say that they were funded by RAW and were ‘terrorists’.

A week before they dismantled their camp, an ‘opposing’ camp was set up by a collective called the Baloch Shuhada (Martyrs’) Forum, which openly sided with the State – whom the other protesting families accused of being party to the enforced disappearances and killings. On January 24 the BYC took down its camp, amid tears and a more hopelessness of ever meeting their loved ones.

The marchers first reached the Hazaar Ganji area outside Quetta and then towards Balochistan University. This was where a large crowd had gathered to receive them.

“People had gone out on their rooftops to see the protesters returning,” says Voicepk correspondent Nadeem Khan. “There was even a bit of mismanagement because there was so much unprecedented crowd that it was inevitable. Banners of other political parties were torn down by the crowds, especially of Jamal Raisani who had accused the families of being funded.

“Mahrang’s narrative was to reach people to convince them that their problem was genuine and really happening.

Mahrang and Sammi Deen gave speeches outside the BU gate, and on January 27 a public meeting will be held to induct more people in the cause. In interviews Mahrang gave in Islamabad prior to this she said they were leaving with a heavy heart, but that their protest had not ended and in fact the only way forward for now was to go home again, mobilize more people, and then return.

“We are glad of one thing that we were able to bring international attention to this issue of ours,” said Sammi Deen Baloch speaking to Voicepk.

 

 

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