Some families, including children and elders, some activists, some civilians and some students, camping outside Governor’s House in Quetta with banners of men – that they call their brothers, fathers, relatives, friends – claiming to have been “forcibly disappeared” mostly by men in plain clothes – some from workplaces, some from homes in midnight, some from buses in journeys, some from markets – demand one in major, three in specific with their ongoing sit-in protest: the major demand they have made is “listen to us” and the protest’s demands include formation of a Judicial Commission to probe the Ziarat incident where they accuse of eleven missing persons’ killings along with linking them with separatist organizations in Balochistan, recovery of Baloch missing persons and safety of their missing family members from fake encounters. The families, after their major demand of being ‘listened to’ was ignored by the authorities, for the second time in last ten days, they have blocked two adjourning chowks: the Serene Hotel chowk (opposite Balochistan Provincial Assembly and Balochistan High Court) and GPO chowk. For last 45 days (on Saturday, 3 September 2022), families have camped in Quetta’s Red Zone – some walking distance from the CM house – with the Provincial Head passing over them.
In our recent visit to Islamabad, a cab driver asked us where we were coming from. I answered from Quetta, while a friend answered Balochistan. Analyzing our answers, he said that he had stayed for more than two years in Quetta. I responded in “hmm” and then he went on and asked me: “Although I have lived in Quetta for two years, I did not know where Balochistan was in Quetta. I lived in Alamdar road, on which road does Balochistan lay?” And then I had no answer other than… “I do not know either.”
Islamabad’s behavior towards Balochistan is no different than that of the driver. Balochistan has gained no ‘attention’ from state that it had to, which has ultimately raised the Baloch issue more towards the intensity it is today. The present situations of Balochistan are best proof of how Balochistan, or nevertheless the Baloch, are under a negligent eye from Islamabad. On one hand, where families of Baloch missing persons are sitting outside Governor’s house for more than a month and half, on the other hand, the recent wave of enforced disappearances has enhanced their concerns. “We are concerned more about fake encounters now in which Baloch missing persons are deliberately shown as those of separatists and their mutilated bodies are thrown away in the name of fake operations,” the families grieved.
Coming towards governments, both the present and the formers, they have two behaviors in common: one, there is no any person missing in Balochistan and allege that the “claimed missing persons” are either in Iran, Afghanistan or in Europe. Two, the missing persons were missing because they were involved in crimes. Both in contradiction with one another. In very simple words, the parliamentary politicians have included the issue of missing persons in their portfolio as a score-gaining point to strengthen their vote banks and were never seen careful about the matter in actual terms. Other than bounding themselves to mere newspaper statements of calling for court trials of allegedly involved Baloch in anti-state activities, they are never in serious and concrete efforts to solve the issue. Or perhaps endangering their vote banks would once again turn around their party portfolio.
When the newly-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shehbaz Sharif visited Quetta for the first time after his being the premier, he said that he would request the upper bodies to recover the missing persons, while CM Balochistan deals with the nation in contrary terms. Maryam Nawaz Shareef, prior to her party being in the present coalition government, visited missing persons’ families and consoled them, while after coming into power, she is rarely in the picture. Dr Malik and Akhtar Mengal endorse the issue and plea in assemblies and statements to end the issue, but are never visible in the practical ground to stand side by side with the families. What is left for the families in real sense to do for the recovery of their loved ones while remaining within the framework? It is, however, yet a mystery.