Families of dozens of missing Baloch persons have transitioned from a sit-in protest in Turbat to marching towards the provincial capital of Quetta as part of a long march on the issue.
With the stated mission of drawing attention towards the issue of enforced disappearances and calling for the safe return of their missing loved ones, the marchers reached Panjgur on December 7. The caravan, after completing the 247-kilometre-long journey north to Panjgur, was extended a warm welcome by locals upon their arrival. The families of Baloch missing people, together with the gathered locals, gave a unified call to end enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
When the protesters arrived, a camp was set up to document and register information about locals who had been reported as being forcibly disappeared. The registration camp underscored the fact that the issue of missing persons persists across various regions of Balochistan.
"We are determined to continue the registration of missing persons in every city we pass through on our march to Quetta," said Sammi Deen Baloch, a prominent voice among the protestors. "This collective effort will help build a comprehensive record, shedding light on the extent of the problem and reinforcing our demand for justice."
The long march serves as a symbolic journey, representing the arduous path that families of missing persons tread in their quest for truth and justice.
Meanwhile, in Turbat, seven-year-old Kulsoon Baloch has become the face of the sit-in protest. She held up a picture of her brother, Israr Barkat, who was abducted in 2015.
The sit-in has continued for 12 days, with protesting families enduring the elements in hopes it would move them closer to justice. A symbolic coffin placed at the centre of the protest serves as a stark reminder of the recent extrajudicial murder of Balach Mola Baksh, whose body was kept in a coffin as a protest for six days.
The protestors have put forward clear demands for accountability of officials involved in the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) officials, an end to arbitrary abductions, and a halt to killings by death squads linked to various authorities.
"We demand the immediate release of all abducted Baloch individuals," Deen asserted whilst repeating their core demands. "The extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances orchestrated by the CTD must come to an end. Death squads operating under government agencies in Balochistan need to be dismantled."
Activist Gulzar Dosth expressed frustration at the government's perceived lack of urgency. "It has been 23 days, and the government has yet to show serious commitment to resolving this issue. The families participating in this sit-in are resolute in their mission to secure the release of all Baloch missing persons."
Ghani Baloch, who travelled from the Mand area to join the protest in Turbat, shared how his family members were affected.
"My brother's son, Shoaib Baloch, was killed by the Frontier Corps (FC)," he alleged, adding, "He (Shoaib) was just an innocent driver, yet he became a victim of violence. This is an outrageous injustice that we cannot tolerate."
Protesters staging the sit-in demanded the government take immediate and concrete actions to address the grievances of the families of missing Baloch persons.