For the Baloch who are missing and others who will be too

Published: March 1, 2013

At a time when only the number of dead has come to matter, the missing persons cannot be forgotten. PHOTO: AFP

I cried for days when my cat died. But I was better off than my little cousin whose dog got kidnapped.

We still wonder if Toffee, who came as a puppy 13 years ago, is alive. We wonder if she is given food on time. If she is safe.  Whenever she comes to mind, in our hearts we hope that she died too.

Think about how you feel when your child gets late from school and you don’t know where your baby is, think about how you feel when you lose a pet, and then imagine what families of missing persons go through, Muhammad Hanif said at a session for Baloch missing persons at the Karachi Literature Festival two weeks ago.

And that’s when I understood. Good for me that I can only relate to it to the extent of missing a dog. Good for me that I am not talking about a man I love. But as IA Rehman said that afternoon,

“If you don’t speak for the Baloch now, tomorrow you will be missing.”

A Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s booklet titled The Baloch Who is Not Missing and Others Who Are tells a few stories on the depth of this tragedy, and it necessitates some introspection.

Muhammad Hanif, the author, categorically blamed the media for not covering the daily humanitarian catastrophe.

Why isn’t it breaking news that Zakir Majeed has been missing for more than three years? he asked.

Well maybe it isn’t because Abdul Samad may have been missing for 11, and Saleem’s body was found tortured beyond identification that very day.  Maybe if Zakir was taken on the front page, many stories of the day would be about the ‘missing’ – the number goes in thousands, the stories are countless.

It’s also true that the media is nothing more than a product of this society, which is often lost in a political circus. If only we had spent a fifth of the time talking about enforced disappearances than we did for Tahirul Qadri, it could have made a difference.

That afternoon, Zakir’s sister Farzana said something that highlights the perplexity of the victims.

“It’s not the fault of media organisations that we don’t get coverage because spy agencies go through the content of a newspaper before it is published,” she said.

Who is going to tell Farzana that intelligence officials don’t scan a newspaper before it is printed?

Who will tell her that nobody really cares?

That the missing persons were never a part of our collective conscience?

When this newspaper first started we frequently published features on the death of fundamental rights in Balochistan, reported daily on bullet-riddled being bodies being found in parts of the province and carried protests by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons in the best way that we knew. But there came a time when we stepped back. The security of reporters had to be prioritised.

In either case, it is difficult to keep a story alive unless it becomes part of the national narrative.

How many times must you write one thing to make it to a drawing room conversation?

What does it take for people who worry about Palestine nearly 2,000 miles away to see that there is blood on their hands too?

What we are dealing with in Pakistan is perhaps a dehumanisation of society. Maybe it’s a natural consequence of decades of disorder. But regardless of where it stems from, we need to fight it out.

At a time when only the number of dead has come to matter, the missing persons cannot be forgotten.

Farzana knows her brother is alive because he sent the buttons of his shirt with another man who had been released from custody.  I never want to know if my brother is alive like that.

Human life must be sacred again.

Read more by Zehra here


Zehra Abid

Peshawar desk in charge at The Express Tribune. She is fluent in Urdu, English and Turkish. She studied at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://India Feroz

    The public wants to believe that those gone missing were traitors financed by CIA / Mossad / RAW and it was the duty of the agencies to eliminate them. Not only unknown people the list of those eliminated includes MNA’s and ex PM’s too. When the criminal is not caught and evidence is destroyed or washed with a hose or it is claimed that a non state actor has done it — there is no need to elaborate who the culprit really is.Recommend

  • Omer

    Sad story.

    But like every story it has another side.Recommend

  • Nasir

    the only way forward for Pakistan is Love for all hatred for none…..however our population is to jahil to adopt thisRecommend

  • kaiqubad

    @Omer: you u please tell us about otherside story Recommend

  • Syed

    Why things have to be sad for Pakistan? Syria is now going through a civil war so we can understand but why Pakistan? I just really have no idea if things will ever get better. If our agencies do find something wrong with these people then please file a case against them. Put them in jail but don’t just torture their bodies and kill them. Author is correct that human life should be sacred again.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The sheer madness that you so eloquently have written about needs to stop. The question is are the people up to the task of doing what is right ? Recommend

  • Ali Baloch

    @Omer Really? Please do elaborate! I love hearing the filth that is cemented in the brains of Pakistanis.Recommend

  • gp65

    Thousands of Pakistanis protested under the great Hafiz Saeed’s leadership for Afzal Guru who is an Indian and was executed only after a all remedies available under law were exhausted. Yet no Pakistani to protest for those Baloch that simply go missing.

    I know that you consider Kashmir to be part of Pakistan but have you stopped considering Balochistan as part of Pakistan?Recommend

  • kamal

    Love your writing style. Recommend

  • kamal

    Actually I love your style.Recommend

  • Omer

    @Ali Baloch:
    So you saying that punjabis,sindhis mohajirs and even pasthuns killed on Saryab road are actually killed by F.C?
    Come on guys I never said that great injustice with baloch wasnt in place but what I am saying is that there are others who suffer from this war and they are not baloch. Recommend

  • http://nil Pathan

    someone should also pickup the pen for those punjabi laborers and barbers who are killed on point blank range in various parts of Balochistan. if someone wants to tell that our agencies pick the people merely to check their “Picking ability” or they are involved in human trafficking, then i want to clinically challenge his wisdom and intellect level. These stories of so called “Missing Person” are not as simple as printed. I guess those “Freedom Fighters” who go for training to Afghanistan and India, and do not come back, or get killed in some encounter, are also “Missing Persons” Recommend

  • Tamoor Rindh

    Good JobRecommend

  • Nadia

    Finally sumone brings this upRecommend

  • baloch

    The Baloch Who is Not Missing is wondering when he will be picked up and then its mutated dead body is gifted to his family.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    If i raise my voice against the persons who took the loved ones of their family, the next day i’ll be missing, so do you think i’m traitor and financed by the mosad, raw etc etc. I guess the ppl of bangladesh were raped and murdered were financed by mosad, raw, cia too. Poeple having mentality like you has destroyed Pakistan Recommend

  • http://[email protected] Taimur

    Another blast happend today. How many things do we fight for??Recommend

  • usman

    dear you are also a part of this population Recommend