Recently, activists from Balochistan, Pakistan, which is in the south of the country and shares a border with Iran and Afghanistan, set out on foot for a 2,000km march from Quetta to Islamabad. This Long March, noted in the Pakistani press as the country’s first-ever protest march, was organized by Voice of Baloch Missing Persons in an effort to raise national and international awareness of the plight of Baloch people in Pakistan, to seek answers from the government regarding the state’s ongoing repression of Baloch people, and to obtain justice for the Baloch disappeared and killed, which number in the thousands.
The core group of marchers, numbering about 2 dozen – including 12 women, 7 men, and 3 children – were greeted along their journey by supporters in numerous towns along the way. But they also faced indifference and hostility, and when they reached Islamabad and presented themselves at the National Press Club, they faced journalists who sought not to adhere to the standards of their profession, but rather to provoke, ridicule, and malign both those who had marched so far for a just cause, and Baloch people in general.
Angered by their attitude, one of the marchers, Banuk Farzana Majeed (1), provided the journalists in Islamabad with a powerfully articulated response to their derision. Her response is captured on video, and translated to English, below. Mission Free Iran supports the just demands of Farzana Majeed and the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.
“My name is Farzana Majeed Baloch, and I am the sister of Baloch student leader Zakir Majeed Baloch, who was abducted on 8th June 2009 by Pakistani secret services agencies from Karimabad in Mastung. To date there is no news about him. I am that sister who, when her brother was abducted on 8th June 2009, started to protest from 9th June 2009. During this protest she [referring to herself] did hunger strikes, press conferences, went to Karachi Press Club, Quetta Press Club. I have come to Islamabad three times and sat here for hunger strike. And your Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Pakistan – supposedly the institution of Justice – here to it I have come for hearings in Islamabad three times. I have gone to it many times in Quetta as well, but I got Justice from nowhere. Why don’t you ask these questions (2) of them?
The five years of pain we have spent aren’t ordinary years. All that you do is write “five” and “years.” But it isn’t as simple as that; these five years, these painful five years, we have spent on roads and streets [seeking justice]. Aren’t we the mothers and sisters of someone? Don’t we have needs? Don’t we have feelings? Don’t our mothers wait for their beloved children?
The forces that you speak of and claim are our defenders and protectors (3) in Balochistan – are they in fact our protectors? Or are they our murderers? This is also a question that you have to answer. The protector is the one who protects people. Not the one who forcibly takes people away in vehicles and later throws their mutilated bodies [on the roadsides] (4). Aren’t these questions that demand answers? Give answers to these questions. It is for the answers to these questions that we have come out. Seeking answers to these painful questions, we have walked 3000 kilometers.
We aren’t psychotic; we aren’t insane girls who wander needlessly on the roads. We have brought our pain and sorrow from our homes; our mothers are anxiously waiting for their children who you have disappeared years before, and they have become psychologically disturbed. Why don’t you answer these questions?
Girls as young as these [pointing to female journalists] and even younger have been widowed there. Young women have received the mutilated bodies of their brothers. Old women have carried the mutilated bodies of their beloved sons. Mama Qadeer (5) himself carried the mutilated body of his son; this young boy [referring to Mama Qadeer’s grandson, Beauragh] has seen his father’s mutilated body. Give answers to these questions. Why do you keep harping on questions about the Balochistan Liberation Army, maps, Haiyr Biyar, Brahamdagh, Khair Bakhsh (6), why do you keep asking us these questions? Moreover they (our leaders) will certainly support us – why shouldn’t they support us? We are their children. If you kill us, will they not ask you? How could they not raise the matter in Geneva while you keep on killing us young Baloch?
What sort of ridiculous questions do you ask us? We aren’t deranged and we aren’t making a drama. It is you who are carrying out a charade and trying to befool and trick Baloch mothers and sisters. Now do you comprehend and understand what it is all about? We need answers to these questions. Don’t you people have mothers and sisters? Did any one of you see me on the roads five years back? Did you then know who Farzana Majeed was? Did you know him [pointing to Ali Haider (7)]? Did Mama Qadeer appeal to NATO five years back? You sit here and try to ridicule us and malign us – is this the way of civilized?
Now you answer my questions. Go to your government and your Nawaz Sharif (8) and tell them that Farzana Majeed demands to know why she has not gotten justice in five years. Ask Asif Ali Zardari (9), why didn’t I get justice in these five years? I need answers to these questions and it is for this for reason I am going to the United Nations. I am going to the UN because no institution here is listening to our grievances, so you (the UN) can ask them why our grievances aren’t being heard.
Don’t I know how to speak and write? Don’t I know how to conduct myself? So why I am not heard here? These are my questions and it is the answer to these questions that I demand of the Pakistani state. And regarding my brother [Zakir Majeed] who, if he has committed a crime, then the allegations that the government has against him should be presented in Supreme Court or the High Court. Punish him if he is proved guilty, and if then Farzana Majeed says something, then you have the right to protest.
Now do you understand? It is these things that we want to ask of the Pakistani state. You all refuse to see these demands of ours. The only thing you see is, why we are we staging hunger strikes, why are we going to the UN, why we don’t support the federation and why we don’t go to the Parliament which has never done anything for us?”
Translation by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur
Minor edits and footnotes added by Maria Rohaly
(1) Farzana Majeed Baloch serves as Secretary General of the organization Voice of Baloch Missing Persons. Her brother, Baloch student leader Zakir Majeed Baloch, was abducted on 8th June 2009 by Pakistani secret services agencies from Karimabad in Mastung.
(2) Referring to the insulting and derogatory questions from the Pakistani journalists.
(3) Referring to the journalists’ assertion that the Pakistani army is the protector of people in Balochistan.
(4) Referring to the common practice of “kill and dump,” whereby Baloch people are abducted from the street and later found dead, usually mutilated and shot, by the roadside.
(5) Mama Qadeer (Abdul Qadeer Baloch), age 72, is the vice-chairman of the organization Voice of Baloch Missing Persons. He organized and led the historic Long March from Quetta to Islamabad. The mutilated body of his son, Jalil Reki, was recovered from Mand, District Kech region, after he was abducted, tortured and executed in custody by Pakistani state security forces.
(6) Haiyr Biyar, Brahamdagh, and Khair Bakhsh are the names of Baloch people leading various organizations.
(7) Ali Haider Baloch, age 11, joined the long march with his elder sister Saba. His father Ramzan Baloch was abducted in front of Ali’s eyes.
(8) Nawaz Sharif is the current Prime Minister of Pakistan.
(9) Asif Ali Zardari is a Pakistani politician and current co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples’ Party.