By Ateet Sharma
New Delhi, Oct 27 (IANS): Facing death and discrimination at the hands of Pakistani authorities for decades, the Baloch freedom fighters have their chests all pumped up after a top leader demanded yesterday the creation of an "independent Balochistan state" during a massive rally which was also addressed by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice-president Maryam Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif via video link from London.
Addressing the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement's (PDM's) third march against the Imran Khan government in Quetta, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP) leader Maulana Shah Owais Noorani has put his stamp of approval on Balochistan's separation from Pakistan.
"We want Balochistan as an independent state. Today, Balochistan looks like an underdeveloped area of the country," Maulana Owais Noorani said in his speech, the video of which has gone viral on the social media and has caught more attention in the country than the comments made by other Opposition leaders in the same rally.
It included Maryam Nawaz's address in which she said that the time has come to change the fate of Pakistan—and Balochistan. "No longer will husbands and brothers go missing, people of Balochistan," daughter of former PM Nawaz Sharif, who wore a traditional Balochi dress, told the huge gathering.
Noorani invited wrath of the ruling government immediately with the federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Shibli Faraz calling him a "political pygmy" who is promoting the "enemies' narrative" from the PDM platform.
"No Pakistani can accept the narrative which the opposition PDM has started to present all of a sudden. They are talking about breaking up of Balochistan and liberating it…" the minister told Dawn in an interview.
Shibli's colleague Murad Saeed, the federal Minister for Communications, accused Noorani of "creating divisions within the country without knowing the grand game" and Shireen Mazari, the Minister for Human Rights in Imran Khan's cabinet, took on Maryam Nawaz saying that she "has suddenly discovered issue of Enforced Disappearances..."
Well aware of the fact that the Pakistani politicians have been fooling them for years, as well as the world community, the Balochs are happy with the ongoing political storm generated by the rally. The activists are relieved to see the top leaders from national political parties raise their concern from the dais about the main issue of missing persons and the atrocities committed by the state authorities.
"Gulistan ko lahoo ki zaroorat pari, sab se pehlay hi gardan hamari kati… Phir bhi kehtay hain mujh say yeh ahle-chaman, yeh chaman hai hamara, tumhara nahi" (Whenever the country needed sacrifice, we were the first to offer our lives. Yet, our fellow countrymen tell us, this is their country and not ours)," said Balochistan National Party president Sardar Akhtar Mengal alleging that the Balochs have never been treated as equal citizens in Pakistan.
The bloodbath and the genocide taking place in Balochistan is highlighted almost every week by a major international agency. As you read this, people continue to disappear in Pakistan's southwestern province at the hands of the country's security services.
On Sunday, the Human Rights Council of Balochistan thanked the South Asian arm of the United Nations Human Rights organization for noticing and raising the issue of Baloch missing persons. "We hope, Pakistan will be asked why it does not reply to the request of Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to investigate the enforced disappearances in Balochistan," the council said.
An inter-governmental body responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the south Asian countries, the UN Human Rights agency had expressed its concern over the Pakistani government's failure to disclose information regarding unacknowledged detention, and enforced disappearances in Balochistan.
"Pakistani security forces and law enforcement agencies continuously commit enforced disappearances with impunity, targeting journalists, activists, Army and government critics especially in Balochistan. We have highly concerns on this issue. The UN Human Rights has expressed concern over the Pakistani government's failure to disclose information regarding unacknowledged detention, and enforced disappearances. Pakistani authorities have failed to respond to the repeated calls from families of the disappeared for investigations into the enforced disappearance of their loved ones," the agency said in a statement.
With the Imran Khan government getting into a tight spot with every passing day and the Opposition realizing -- at least for the time being -- the pain of the Balochs, is the wind of change finally blowing in Balochistan?