Pakistan: Baloch families march as state kills and dumps

image(picture via International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons)

Yesterday a mass grave was discovered in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province. It is likely that the bodies within belong to “missing persons”, victims of a bloody campaign of repression carried out by Pakistan’s security forces since at least 2005. Now the relatives of the disappeared are on a long march across Pakistan.

Balochistan occupies a strategic position between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and hosts an important supply route for US forces in the region. For some years, a remote Baloch airfield was used by the US to launch drone strikes, until growing tensions with the Pakistani government forced American personnel to vacate the base.

The province produces a third of Pakistan’s natural gas. It could be a rich source of copper, uranium and oil. Yet the majority of its people live in severe poverty, with conditions worsening as conflict and repression spread.

image(picture via Dera Ghazi khan: The Eastern Balochistan)

Resistance has mounted in recent years against the exploitation of the region, lack of political representation and the proliferation of military bases.The Pakistani government claims in response that the province hosts Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters. It launches indiscriminate attacks using US-supplied fighter jets and helicopters.

CIA drone strikes have killed hundreds in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP). But Balochistan has also suffered brutal repression at the hands of Pakistan’s own security forces. Thousands of students, activists, journalists and others have “disappeared”, often after contact with intelligence services or security personnel. Even lawyers representing the families of the disappeared have been murdered. If the bodies of the missing are found, they bear signs of torture. Others are thought to remain in detention in military camps. Some have certainly been handed over to US intelligence services. The Pakistani government denies all involvement, yet local police have made no arrests and have launched no investigations.

Late last year, an organisation called Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) launched a “long march” to demonstrate against the government’s savage “kill and dump” policy. The marchers, families of the missing, covered the 450 miles between Quetta and Karachi in 24 days.

image(picture via International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons)

As they passed through towns and cities, they displayed photographs of their missing relatives and placards and demanded an end to the disappearances. Daily updates were provided on Twitter and Facebook, enable peopling across Pakistan to express solidarity with the march. Yet the mainstream media – in Pakistan and around the world – almost completely ignored the event.

After staging a demonstration in Karachi, the marchers continue towards Islamabad, despite serious threats from security forces. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of supporters turn out to greet them along the way. The Long March has been underway for 72 days now. The Baloch people demand justice as the list of the missing grows.

For photos, videos and news of the VBMP Long March, see:


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