As soon as the winter sun starts to rise, people begin to gather on the road.
They’re ready for another day of marching…
Some students line up to protect the march on both sides of the group, they’re covering their faces for fear of abduction. They carry placards that read: “stop killing Baloch people” and: “we condemn extra-judicial killings”.
72-year-old Qadeer Baloch is leading this march. He’s pushing a hand cart full of pictures of missing Baloch people.
“Pakistan intelligence agencies have abducted people from Baluchistan. We started this long march heading to Islamabad to meet UN officials to tell them about this case. We will give a written petition to UN officials stating that Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies abduct political workers and educated people and put them in torture cells.”
Qadeer’s son was one of those abducted by Pakistan intelligence agencies. Some time after the abduction Qadeer was sent a dead, mutilated body.
Farzana Majid Baloch is walking beside Qadeer Baloch. Her brother is the Baloch student leader: Zakir Majid Baloch, who was abducted in 2009. Two weeks ago, some unknown people pointed guns on Farzana, forcing her to quit the march. “I never thought of retreating from my goal. I lost my health and weight but I have gathered great courage and I will keep struggling for the release and the life of my brother. Also the lives of all my people.”
Balochistan, a province in South-West Pakistan, has been the scene of an armed secessionist movement since 2000. Although the province is rich in natural gas, the Baloch people believe they do not receive the same benefits that these resources bring to the rest of Pakistan. The Baloch people demanded that their rights be respected by the state and later started movement to claim independence.
According to the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, more than 18 thousand people have gone missing and 1,500 mutilated bodies have been found.
Qadeer Baloch warns me… 28 journalists have been killed for raising issues regarding the treatment and rights of the Baloch people.
“We received threats all the time. We are all still insecure even while talking to you. I am afraid anything can happen to us to stop us from reaching Islamabad and meeting UN officials but we will continue our journey.”
While marching, students shout “We want justice! We want the release of missing persons.”
Maryam Qamar is a human rights activist from NGO Youth Alliance. She’s been following the march for a month now. “There are more women in the march. So we prove that women are not weak. They were never weak. There have been threats and there will be more threats. I’m getting threats myself. We’re on the right patch and with this belief, I’m walking with them.”
Asim Sajjad is the general secretary of a left wing political party, Awami Punjab. He says the state has to take responsibility. “The burden of stopping this military conflict lies on the state because it’s the state that is perpetrating all the crimes. So the military resistance is a reflection of what people do when they’re cornered.”
It’s another long day for 11-year-old Ali Haider following his father in the march. “I want to express my anger through participating in the long March with Mama Qadeer.”