Program “Un-silencing Balochistan” interdicted
By Nadia Baloch
The prominent Baloch human rights defender Mama Abdul Qadeer Baloch got the attention of national and international human rights organizations as well as media, when he along with his fellow marchers had marched from Quetta to Karachi and then Karachi to Islamabad and by this he broke the world record of Gandhi who traveled 700 km. The purpose of this march was to get the attention of the International human rights organization and developed societies about the violation of human rights in Balochistan in shape of abduction of Baloch political activist, human rights defenders and people from all walks of life and their extra judicial killing.
Mama Qadeer has been struggling on the platform of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) for the safe recovery of missing persons. He is the Vice Chairman of the VBMP, his son Jaleel Reki was abducted on 13 February, 2009, after two and half years his bullet riddled body was found from Turabt. After the extra judicial killing of Mr Reki, the human right defender Mama Qadeer has devoted his life for the early release of missing persons. He along with the members of organization have been recording their protest, organizing seminars to raise voice against the violation of human rights in Balochistan. Since the formation of the organization, Mama Qadeer has never taken rest, with every passing day he is seen in protest camp in front of Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad press clubs or participating seminars conducted against the enforced disappearances. Pictures of the missing and extra judicial killed persons were displayed in the camp established by Mama Qadeer to protest tirelessly.
Few days back, on 9th April, a program on human rights was scheduled at Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS). The title of the talk was “Un-silencing Balochistan”. The panelists of the talk were follows: Mama Abdul Qadeer Baloch the Vice Chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Farzana Majeed the Secretary General of the VBMP, Mohammad Ali Talpur a columnist, I.A Rehman the Director of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Asim Sajjad the Assistant Professor at Quaid-e- Azam University and human rights activist, Sajjad Chaghezi human rights activist, Alif Ailaan, and the program was moderated by Rashid Rehman the chief editor of renowned newspaper Daily Times.
According to media reports, the talk was cancelled by interdict of the state authorities.
Dr. Taimur Rehman a faculty member of LUMS talking to Pakistan Today said that men from Inter-Services-Intelligence (ISI) visited LUMS, and presented a letter calling for cancellation of talks.
They further said that Balochistan is a sensitive issue and the moot could be used to malign Pakistan, said Dr. Rehman, adding that the intelligence officials were firm in their directives.
The talks were aimed at understanding the Balochistan issue and discussing ways on how to resolve the longstanding problems of Baloch people. It was supposed to be an academic discussion which was muzzled for no good reason. This is violation of academic freedom and curb on freedom of speech. The Baloch also have right to express their reservations, which could help us in reaching a logical solution, the issue facing the province. Dr. Rehman said.
The students of LUMS have recorded their protested on social media and urged the government that such talks should be held, the cancellation of human rights talk is the violation of freedom of expression. Students stated on social media.
It is not the first time the state’s authorities have claimed that the VBMP office bearers are involved in anti-state activities. We were disallowed to travel abroad by state authorities to attend a seminar on human rights in USA. Mama Qadeer said.
“The reason of the cancelation of talk was to not let the students to know about the issue of missing person and the extra judicial killing of political activists. The members of the organization have knocked every door of the state institute including the Supreme Court of Pakistan and still the cases are in pending at court. The first information reports of missing persons are filed in the police stations of the state. If they were involved in anti-state activities, they would not appear before the judiciary.” Said by the families of missing persons.
Due to absence of media coverage the rest of the people of Pakistan are unaware of the situations in Balochistan. According to the VBMP and other political organizations, in Balochistan the number of missing persons is in thousand, and more than one thousand people were extra judicially killed.
The peoples in provinces of Pakistan do not know why political activist, students and people from grass root level of this province Balochistan are being abducted and extra judicially killed. They even don’t known; the motives behind formation of organization the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. Why the members of the organization marched the longest distance of 2700 km? Why they are sitting on token hunger strike camp?
They must be informed that they their loved ones were brutally taken away from them, they have consulted the judiciary and were ignored by the supreme institutes of the state, and then they adopted the way of peaceful protest for the safe recovery of their loved ones.
Majority of the people of Pakistan doesn’t know about the issue of Balochistan. A report telecasted on BBC, people of the Punjab were asked about the areas and people of Balochistan so they didn’t know anything about this province. They even don’t know it was the state of Balochistan.
Workshops should be held in the educational institutions of Punjab and other provinces of Pakistan regarding the issue of Balochistan. It was the first program which was scheduled on human rights about Balochistan at the educational institution of Lahore; Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed were among the speaker panelist, and later the talk was cancelled by the interference of the state authorities to stop the freedom of expression and it is violation of the article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
1: Every one shall have the right to hold opinion without interference.
2: Every one shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
Front Line Defenders stated that it’s a grave concern at the silencing of the discussion session at LUMS and continuing smear campaign against human rights defenders working on the behalf of the Baloch people, as well as the refusal of the Pakistani authorities to lift the travel ban placed upon Mama Qadeer as a result of his human rights work.
The Asian Human Rights Commission condemned the cancellation of the talk and stated that intervention in the academic debate on the issue of Balochistan and demands that the state conduct an enquiry into the matter. Any intellectual debate cannot be silenced forcefully. The society and its people have a right to have free thoughts and access to information as enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.
In the constitution of Pakistan every citizen shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security of defense of Pakistan or any part thereof friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation or contempt of court, [commission of] or incitement to an offence.
But here in Balochistan entirely different situation, the constitutional and fundamental rights are not followed by the state authorities.