In a quiet yet powerful protest, Baloch families, in collaboration with the Baloch Yakjehti Committee, established a token hunger strike camp in front of the National Press Club, Islamabad, on November 27 2023. The families are demanding the release of Baloch missing persons and an end to alleged fake encounters by Pakistani state agencies.
As the hunger strike enters its fourth day, the determination of these families remains steadfast. However, their plight seems to go unnoticed by the people of Islamabad and the Pakistani media. Mahzaib Baloch, the sister of missing activist Rashid Hussain, passionately expressed her frustration, stating that if the state cannot release her brother, she would rather face extreme measures than endure the pain of uncertainty for another day.
The missing persons issue, according to Sahira Baloch, sister of Asif Baloch and Rasheed Baloch, is treated as a joke by the state. She criticizes the appointment of Sarfraz Bugti as the head of the missing persons' commission, alleging that he dismisses the issue as trivial. The families vow to continue their hunger strike until their loved ones are released and the state addresses their concerns regarding fake encounters.
Bugti, however, consistently links missing persons to insurgent groups, claiming they are not abducted but rather operating in Afghanistan or Iran. This contradicts the families' assertions, backed by what they claim is evidence of their loved ones being in the custody of Pakistani security agencies.
A 22-year-old Baloch student at the camp highlighted the media's apathy towards their cause, comparing it to the coverage of a nearby protest for Palestine. Despite being just meters away, the Baloch hunger strike went largely unnoticed by mainstream Pakistani media, raising questions about the visibility and representation of Baloch issues.
The student's poignant message emphasized the perceived lack of ownership the state and media have for the Baloch people. He questioned why the Pakistani nation could organize protests for distant causes but seemingly ignore the struggles faced by Baloch families in their own homeland.
In response to the student's message, it becomes apparent that the Baloch people feel marginalized and unacknowledged by the state. The hunger strike serves as a plea for recognition, justice, and solidarity from a nation that, as the student suggests, might not fully embrace the Baloch identity.
As the Baloch families continue their peaceful protest, their struggle amplifies the need for a more inclusive and empathetic approach from the state and media. The silent hunger strike speaks volumes, echoing the voices of those who feel abandoned and forgotten in their quest for justice and the safe return of their missing loved ones.