A 700-Kilometer March for Missing People in Pakistan's Balochistan

Separatist fighting in Balochistan, the largest and poorest province of Pakistan, has taken a bloody toll in the last nine years, with more than 2,000 civilians killed as well as about 700 security forces and 500 fighters. But more than killings has plagued the people of the province – in that time, thousands of Baloch have disappeared without explanation.

#VBMPLongMarch Screenshot from Video by International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons

#VBMPLongMarch Screenshot from Video by International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons

To protest the abductions, a group of about 20 people, mostly women, embarked on a march of nearly 700 kilometers from Balochistan's capital city Quetta to Sindh's capital Karachi on October 27, 2013. The marchers are part of the organization Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), which has maintained a protest camp in Quetta for three and a half years (see GV article) and will move the camp to Karachi at the end of the march.   

The protesters will walk on foot from six in the morning until six at night until reaching their destination. Participants are carrying emotionally charged placards and banners inscribed with slogans, such as “Stop killing Baloch political workers” and “we condemn extra-judicial killings”.

According to the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP), at least 18,000 Balochs have been abducted between 2001 and 2013, and their whereabouts remain unknown. “Several loved ones of VBMP members along with thousands of other Baloch are currently languishing in torture cells and hundreds have been killed under-custody,” members said during a press conference at the Quetta Press club, where the protest camp is, before the march.

In the same conference, VBMP warned that if anything happened to them on their way to Karachi, they will hold the provincial government responsible.

Relations between the Balach separatist movement and the government are icy. The Chief Minister of the Balochistan government, Dr. Malik Baloch, recently announced that a multi-party conference would be convened to discuss ways and means of bringing an end to prevailing unrest in Balochistan, marked by insurgency and growing sectarian attacks. However, Baloch resistance groups have rejected talks with the government, and deemed it a conspiracy to damage the Baloch struggle.

On social media, activists voiced their support for the march. Sindhi nationalist Organisation Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) wrote:

Users commented under the hashtag #VBMPLongMarch

Journalism student and human rights activist Faiz M Baluch (@FaizMBaluch) tweeted a photo of a marcher:

Ghaffar Baloch (@Alhaan_) asked readers to put themselves in the shoes of the victims’ families: 

Journalist Boriwal Kakar (@BoriwalKakar) spread the news: 

On 30 October, 2013, the fourth day of the march, the protesters reached Manguchar area of Kalat District in Balochistan. Hamdan Baluch (@HamdanBaluch) reported:

Please follow the Facebook page of Bramsh News Media and the #VBMPLongMarch hashtag in Twitter for the latest updates on the march.


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