Adding more to the horrors of the Baloch people, three mass graves have recently been discovered in Khuzdar district of Balochistan. Asian Human Rights Commission have counted 103 dead bodies recovered from the graves while according to the locals, the body count is 169. Similar graves have also been discovered in Pishin and Panjgor. This is not an isolated incident hard to make sense of. It is just another episode in a long sequence of atrocities perpetrated by the deep state against the Baloch nationalists. In over a decade, more than 6000 Baloch have gone missing, though the nationalists claim that the actual number is around 18000. Despite the disagreement over actual numbers, the enormity of the situation remains unaffected. It also does not change the undeniable fact that hundreds of mutilated and dumped dead bodies continue to be found every other day.
In any civilized society this must have led to popular discontent and possibly a national crisis. But unfortunately, rest of the country especially the commanding Punjab is completely indifferent to the whole situation. On the other hand, the common response, if any, to this calamity is to deny the hard facts or to actively blame the ‘foreign’ elements. Those who dare to speak for the Baloch missing persons have to stomach the label of being called ‘foreign agents’.
Meanwhile a small group comprised of the families of missing persons is on a long march from Quetta to Islamabad. Organized under the umbrella of the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persosns (IVBMP) and led by Mama Qadeer, an old man in his 70s, the helpless women and children have already travelled thousands of miles on foot. Having endured all the adversities of unwarrantable terrain and weather, they are currently walking through the central Punjab. The attention and media coverage given to the IVBMP’s long march is very telling of our overall reaction to the issue of Baloch missing persons. There is hard to find any parallel to such a momentous long march in the history of this country. Yet the mainstream media, usually overzealous to give surplus coverage to anything done in the name of long march, is by and large ignoring this outstanding story.
Owing to habitual ignorance, cowardice or dishonesty, a conspiracy of silence has evolved around the issue of Baloch missing persons. There are some who actually are ignorant of the facts yet do not want to know, and there are others who know the reality but do not acknowledge it or actively deny it. Whether done out of vested interests or out of our erroneous sense of so-called nationalism, the whole of Pakistan will have to bear the brunt of this culture of silence. We must learn from the past; the parallel example of 1971 genocide in East Pakistan is a case in point.
With their moral courage, Mama Qadeer and his fellow travellers will soon reach the corridors of power in Islamabad. Let’s resolve to join them in their dignified demands and break the culture of silence before it is too late.