Mama Qadeer Baloch, the well-known Baloch activist fighting for the cause of missing persons, has decided to internationalise the issue of forced abductions by the Pakistan government by announcing a walk from Balochistan to Geneva. Joining him on the march will be the families of missing persons who have been abducted by Pakistan.
Mama Qadeer, the Vice-Chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), said in a video on Twitter that he will organise “a long march from Balochistan to the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland”, to support the recovery of thousands of missing Baloch people who have been abducted by the Pakistani Army and spy agencies.
Breaking: Mama Qadeer Baloch (@QadeerMama), leader of the #VBMP, announces long march from Balochistan to United Nation (@UN) Headquarter in Geneva against enforced disappearances in #Balochistan. pic.twitter.com/EatL0tXbyk
— Mahnoor Haider | ماھنور ھیدر (@Mao_Baluch) June 12, 2023
The doughty Baloch campaigner has led one of the longest hunger strikes in the world at the Karachi Press Club to press Islamabad to locate missing persons kidnapped by government agencies.
He had earlier also completed a march from Quetta to Karachi, covering more than 2,000 km in October 2014 to highlight the growing concern of missing persons and dead bodies.
His route for the “long march” starts from Balochistan and winds through Iran, Turkey, Greece, and Italy to culminate at the UN offices in Switzerland.
Mama Qadeer has planned his programme. He says: “This route will be about 6,500-7,000 kms long and will take about 6-7 months on foot”. He aims to create awareness about Pakistan’s consistent use of ‘enforced disappearances’ to subjugate ethnic communities like the Baloch and the Sindhis.
Talking about his long march, Mama Qadeer says that he will take the support of international NGOs as well as the United Nations. He has already submitted the names of the people who will join him in the march. He says that the UN has assured him of security to the protestors.
Mama Qadeer says he had planned the peaceful march before Covid struck and he had to cancel it. He says that he is resuming the long march now because the Pakistani government has not paid heed to their hunger strike that has been going on since October 27, 2014.
He formed the VBMP in 2009 after his son Jalil Ahmed Reki was picked up by security agencies in Quetta in 2009 and his body was found three years later near the Iranian border. Despite being part of the Pakistani political system, he has not been able to move the Pakistan government to provide justice to the families fighting for extra-judicial killings, illegal detentions and dumped bodies.
Almost a decade back Mama Qadeer had said that if Pakistan allows a referendum in Balochistan, its people will certainly vote for independence – highlighting the alienation that the Baloch community feels from Islamabad due to violations to their dignity and exploitation of their natural resources.
The announcement by Mama Qadeer comes at an uncomfortable time for Pakistan as the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif assisted by Pakistani Army chief Gen. Asim Munir is under global scrutiny for abducting, kidnapping and arresting people across the country. The arrested include women and even Pakistani nationals holding dual citizenship.
Currently, Pakistani security agencies are arbitrarily ‘picking up‘ people they presume were involved in the May 9 protests that followed the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan from inside the Islamabad High Court. Pakistani civil society and the political class is engulfed in a debate whether the country should put these people on trial under military courts or civil courts.
Mama Qadeer’s protest will also highlight the Baloch independence struggle that Islamabad has kept hidden from the world. If allowed by the Shehbaz Sharif government, the long march will only seek to reinforce the image of the Pakistani establishment as a lawless agency with little regard for human rights.