Thursday, 10 June 2010

‘Not a morsel till Zakir is freed!’

Thursday, June 10, 2010
By By Saher Baloch

Karachi: In the sweltering summer heat, three members of a family refuse to break their 28 day hunger strike outside the Karachi Press Club and only demand that Zakir Majeed Baloch, who got missing from Khuzdar, Balochistan on June 8 2009, must be freed.

With pain etched on their faces, Baloch’s family members, including his sister Shabana, refuse to eat anything, “We will not eat a morsel till Zakir is freed!” And looking at them, its obvious that they physical pain of hunger pangs is well surpassed by the mental anguish of the loss of their loved one.

A year after Zakir went missing; his family is still looking for clues and searching for answers. Sitting with a picture of his brother, Shabana says that she wants to know whether her brother is alive or not. “If he has done something unlawful there are courts for it but to pick a person for unknown reasons is something we do not understand.” Besides being a brilliant student, Shabana says that Zakir never minced words while speaking about the plight of the Baloch people, who she added “live in the most deplorable of conditions in their own province.”

Back in 2009, the head of United Nations High Commission for Refugees, John Solecki was abducted from Quetta on his way to home. An organisation claimed responsibility for the abduction and demanded that the United Nations put pressure on Pakistani authorities to release 1109 missing Baloch activists, out of which 141 were women. “This angered many of the young activists who wanted to talk it out rather than create a ruckus. Zakir Baloch was one of them,” Shabana said.

Along with like minded people, he formed a committee known as the John Solecki Release Committee and set about putting pressure on the authorities to pace their efforts in finding Solecki. Though Solecki was released after two months, Zakir went missing from Balochistan without a trace.

Bewildered, the family filed an FIR and later filed a petition in High Court. “During the period when we were running from pillar to post, we did not get a call for ransom or any threats from anyone,” added Dr Hussain Baloch, a cousin of Zakir, accompanying his family. He said that they filed a petition in Supreme Court as well, “but so far we have not been informed about anything.” He says that those sympathizing with them very well know who’s behind the abductions but to no avail. “We appeal to all the human rights organisations to help us out in our search for justice.”

Director at Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), I.A Rehman said that he felt for the families of the missing person but the fact is that it is a long process. “A commission has been formed in Quetta regarding the recovery of missing persons in the region. A hearing takes place after every 10 days and 5 to 6 people are recovered. Hope is not lost yet as we are trying our best to recover those who are missing.”

Though the young ones, to some extent, understand the problems in getting timely justice in the country, it is their mother they are worried about. Shabana said that all day long her mother looks at the doorway expecting Zakir to get in any minute. Zakir’s mother keeps getting in and out of the hospital after her son’s disappearance. “All day long, my mother cries out Zakir’s name and says that when he has not done anything then why he is not coming home. She does not understand, no matter how much we try,” said Shabana in a soft voice.

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