By Faiz M Baluch
The world is celebrating the International Women’s Day (IWD) to pay their homage to working women and to renew their pledge to continue striving for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The women in Balochistan are not only out in streets (in front of Press Clubs) demanding the release of their loved ones but they also continue to be targeted by Pakistani state and its military backed religious extremists.
Baloch women tolerate the greatest hardships in Balochistan. The pain of losing their children, brothers, fathers and husbands at the hand of Pakistani security forces is couple with the religious extremism against women. Illegal occupation of Balochistan by the fundamentalist states of Iran and Pakistan has created a perpetual sense of insecurity for Baloch society as a whole but women and children are primary casualties of this insecurity.
The state violence against Baloch women, especially the politically aware and educated ones, is continuously on rise in Balochistan. The state security forces and their proxy criminal gangs who operate in the name of religion across Balochistan have been threatening girls’ educational institutes and killing teachers of co-education centres in district Kych and Panjgur. The Pakistani ISI backed fanatic elements have also ordered the Baloch women to stay away from political gatherings and protests otherwise they would face grave consequences.
The Baloch women are at forefront in the current liberation struggle of Balochistan but they are involved in peaceful political activism and awareness campaigns. The women’s participation in pro-liberation politics is unacceptable to Pakistan and its proxy organisation hence they started a campaign to spread intimidation and terror against Baloch women. The Pakistan army, intelligence agencies and pro-Parliament politicians in Pakistan [occupied Balochistan] are hand in glove in this vicious campaign against Baloch women.
One of the inspirational and resilient human rights activists in Balochistan is Farzana Majeed Baloch, the General Secretary of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. She is, perhaps, the first women in world history who has walked 3000 kilometres in 106 days along with Sammi Baloch, daughter of abducted Dr Deen Mohammad Baloch and a dozen other Baloch sisters to demand justice for enforced-disappeared Baloch activists. While Mama Qadeer was the eldest hero of among the marchers, Ali Haider son of abducted Ramzan Baloch and Jeehand Baloch remain the youngest mavericks of the VBMP’s historical long march.
Sammi Baloch’s father was abducted on 29 June, 2009 from Ornach area of Khuzdar and Farzana’s brother – Zaki Majeed Baloch – senior vice chairman of Baloch Student Organisation – Azad, was abducted on 8, June, 2009 from Paring Abad area of Mastung, Balochistan. The families have not heard of them since their arrest and disappearance. They have been knocking every door to get justice for their loved ones and thousands of other Baloch families who’s loved ones have also been abducted and disappeared by Pakistani security forces.
Throughout the past six years, Farzana Majeed and female human rights activists have overcome incredible deterrents through their resilience and continuous struggle. Despite threats and intimidation during the historical and peaceful long march, attempts to run them over by vehicles by driving straight into the crowed of marcher and injuring at least three participants, and even the Punjab police and military interference, Farzana remained steadfast in her quest to demand accountability for her brother and the over 18,000 other victims of enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
Most recently, on 4th March, 2015, Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has detained Farzana Majeed, Abdul Qadeer Baloch and Faiqa Baloch at Karachi airport and placed their names on Exit Control List (ECL) barring them from travelling abroad. They were invited by Sindhi Academic and Cultural Society (SACS-NA) of North America to participate in a conference on human rights violations in Sindh and Balochistan but the ‘Islamic Democratic Republic of Pakistan’ did not allow them despite possessing five year US visa.
Farzana and Mama Qadeer later told media persons that were detained for more than three hours and subjected to mental torture and intimidation by Pakistani security forces. “We were treated like criminals,” Qadeer told BBC Urdu.
The state atrocities across Balochistan and the violence against women is an illustration of fear and frustration that Pakistani security forces are now even scared of an 80 year old Baloch activist – Mama Qadeer Baloch and female human rights activists. It also shows the physiological defeat of state and confirms the Baloch people’s charges that state is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Balochistan. Although Pakistan wants to hide such crimes from the international community and international media but putting Baloch human rights activists on ECL (Exit Control List) is enough clue for world community to understand Pakistan’s motives behind such actions.
The international community including United Nations, the UN women and other humanitarian organisation must take notice of Pakistani state sponsored crimes against Baloch women and urge Pakistan to end the ongoing human rights violations and ban on girls education in Balochistan. The UN and other International Human Rights Organisation must also urge Pakistan to lift the travel ban on Baloch human rights activists and allow them to travel abroad to raise their voice at international forums