World Bulletin / News Desk
A band of families whose relatives have been missing for years, allegedly at the hands of intelligence agencies, reached Islamabad on Friday at the end of their four-month long march.
Led by a 72-year old former banker, “Mama” (uncle) Abdul Qadeer Baluch, over two dozen people - including women and children - marched for relatives who disappeared in troubled southwestern Baluchistan province, where secular Baluch separatists are fighting security forces for the mineral-rich province's “liberation.”
“We have no other purpose, except to tell the world how our youths are being picked up, killed and dumped,” Mama, whose son Abdul Jalil Reki's bullet-riddled body was found near Quetta following his abduction, told Anadolu Agency.
The marchers, who began their journey in October from Baluchistan's capital Quetta, were welcomed by human rights activists as they entered Islamabad after a grueling 2,000 kilometers.
Their first stop was the port city of Karachi on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
Women, who covered their faces with Dupatta (sheet) in traditional Baluchi style, were showered with leafs amid slogans for the release of missing persons.
Looking wan, weak and weather-beaten, Mama Qadeer expressed their plans to present a petition to United Nations officials in Islamabad and to meet foreign diplomats to highlight their case.
“We have lost hope in the [Pakistani] government, politicians, and even judiciary, which have all failed to recover our loved ones,” he lamented. “We will appeal to [UN officials and foreign diplomats] to put pressure on the Pakistani establishment for the release of our sons and brothers.”
According to Human Rights Watch, some 300 cases of “kill and dump” have been reported in different parts of mineral-rich Baluchistan since 2011.
According to government figures, only a few hundred suspects have been missing, while human rights organizations and families of missing persons – who blame security forces - put the number in the thousands.
However, security agencies deny the charge and contend they have been fighting a fierce rebellion in Baluchistan.
Farzana Baluch, whose brother has been missing since 2011, accused security agencies of harassing the marchers.
“They [security agencies] started harassing us as soon as we entered Punjab,” Farzana told reporters. “But we were not cowed by their cowardly attempts.”
Baluchistan borders Iran and Afghanistan and covers 42 percent of Pakistani territory, but is the country’s least populous province.
Baluch separatists claim the province, which has witnessed various insurgencies during last 66 years, was forged into Pakistan by force in August 1947.Last Mod: 01 Mart 2014, 23:14