On Friday night as 72-year-old Qadeer or “Mama” Baloch as he is known, and a young marcher Farzana were returning to their place of stay in Islamabad after a TV show, unidentified men threatened them with dire consequences if they didn’t leave. Yet on Saturday morning, undaunted, they continued their march to the capital.
Ringed by handholding masked young men, Mr. Baloch and his brave band walked in a slow procession from the Faizabad junction to the National Press Club here, and a modest crowd of supporters showered them with rose petals as they wheeled a small cart with framed photos of young men and women who had gone missing in Balochistan in the last decade or so.
Farzana said that she and the other marchers had to seek refuge for the night in the house of a well-wisher. “My toe nails have fallen off, I have lost weight and my skin is badly damaged during the march from Quetta since last October. Most of us have fallen ill and the strain is showing,” she said. Among the marchers are nine young women and three children, all of whom have lost a member of their family. A Masters degree holder in bio chemistry and another Masters in Baloch literature, she says her life has been disrupted after her brother Zakir, a Baloch student leader, was taken away by security agencies some years ago. “We are struggling to cope with his loss and my family is bereft,” she added.
Sixteen-year-old Sammi Baloch feels that despite walking for so many days and such a long distance, no one really cares about their plight. “We still have some hope of justice, otherwise we wouldn’t be out walking on the streets,” she said. The whereabouts of her father who was picked up by security agencies is still unknown. Most of the young girls like Samina who studies in the 7th class and her younger brother Ali Haider have left school to take part in the march. Their father Mohammed Ramzan is missing.
Mr. Baloch said that during the march people abused and threatened them at certain places and in some instances even fired at them. He says the organisation he founded, the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons had requested a meeting with the U.N. when the UN Working Group had visited Balochistan. “We were invited to meet them in Islamabad and we decided to walk the over 3300 km from Quetta to highlight our situation,” he said.