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Baloch women set up protest camp

By: Kalbe Ali

ISLAMABAD: Five women from Balochistan are beating the scorching heat in their protest camp outside the National Press Club in Islamabad.

Led by Zar Jan, the camp has been set up to protest the forced disappearance of Zahid Baloch, the chairman of the Baloch Student Organisation (Azad), who was whisked away by plainclothesmen from Satellite Town in Quetta.

The family has blamed the security agencies, including the Frontier Constabulary (FC), for being involved in his disappearance.

Know more: Cover Story: Balochistan’s heart of darkness

Ms Jan, wife of Zahid Baloch, said: “On March 18, 2014, at around 5pm Baloch was kidnapped at gunpoint by plainclothesmen in Quetta. We suspect that they were from the agencies because the FC was standing around and watching.”

When asked how she came to know about these details as she was in Naal in the district of Khuzdar, she said Banuk Karima, the vice chairperson, and other members of BSO-A central committee, had witnessed the kidnapping.

It may be noted that a group of BSO-Azad activists had arrived in Quetta from Khuzdar to attend a meeting when they were kidnapped after passing through an FC checkpoint at Satellite Town.

Despite negligible education and limited exposure to the outside world, the circumstances following the disappearance of her husband have made Zar Jan confident and strong.

Initially, the police refused to register the case of forced disappearance of her husband, but an FIR was registered after Ms Jan obtained directives from the Balochistan High Court, Quetta.

After running from pillar to post in Quetta and Karachi, she headed to the federal capital in the hope that her voice might be heard by someone in the power corridors.

She along with two sons – Dodah, 5, and Qambar, 3, – three cousins and human rights activist Bibi Gul and some male members of the family established the protest camp outside the NPC last week. They plan to stay in Islamabad till Eidul Fitr.

“We have tried everything just to know his whereabouts. And this ambiguity has a much heavier feeling on my heart,” Ms Jan said. “Every day we see families going home happily to end the fast and soon they will all start preparing for Eid. But see why we are here?”

Hailing from a middle class background, Zahid Baloch had been an active member of the student organisation conducting protests and delivering speeches. He was earlier affiliated with BSO (Pajjar).

“Zahid used to be with the old comrade Dr Malik, now the chief minister, as he too was in the BSO-Pajjar,” said Bibi Gul, the chairperson of the Baloch Human Rights Organisation.

“We have tried to get in touch with the authorities concerned, politicians and even the security personnel but nobody claims to have any knowledge of Zahid Baloch,” she said. “And the worst part is that whenever there is a strong pressure people start coming back – but in coffins.”

One of her cousins sitting at the protest camp said: “At least he (Baloch) was not affiliated with Taliban but had he been he might not be caught.”

Various human rights organisations have placed the number of Baloch missing persons between 600 and 5,000 but the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) said more than 19,000 Baloch people had been subjected to forced disappearance.