The Platform


The Baloch tragedy is fully captured by two recent events. On April 17, Hameedullah Baloch, a truck driver was killed by Pakistani security forces near the Pakistan-Afghan border when he allegedly attempted to drive away after being signaled by security forces to stop for inspection.

Large-scale protests ensued, where protestors blocked the main highway and stopped freight trains coming from Iran. Security forces attempted to disperse the crowds and opened fire, injuring eight.

Just a week later, Shari Baluch, wearing explosives, blew herself up destroying a van carrying Chinese and other staff of a university in Karachi, killing several. The Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.

Forced disappearances have become an instrument to quell any dissenting voices. The practice is so prevalent that the Commission of Inquiries on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) reported that there were 7,000 cases of enforced disappearances since 2011. The disappearances are targeted against religious minorities and ethnicities, especially Baloch nationalists. Although Pakistan’s security forces have denied their role in these disappearances, there is a widespread belief that forced disappearances have become one tool to quell any dissent.

While the issue has been debated in parliament, there is a silence about the issue in mainstream media. However, one permanent spectacle has been the protests staged by the families of the missing persons in Islamabad. The participants are mostly wives, mothers, or daughters of the missing persons. These families languish in the capital, unheard, and unreported. It seems that they have been damned to relive their tragedies in the shadows.

The new prime minister has promised to not ignore the issue but has yet to offer any concrete action.

The political situation in Balochistan does not amount to any organized militancy or secessionist movement. The political unrest in Balochistan is charted by economic and political inequalities. It is widely believed that BLA is a proxy of India, without any political or popular support in the province. Over time it has attempted to fuel the economic insecurities of the Baloch people but its call for a separate state has been discredited.

Even the current attack on Chinese nationals is seen as a ploy to disrupt CPEC which can bring necessary economic and political stability to the province. But the state has also been asked to take steps to alleviate genuine concerns of the Baloch people including sorting the issue of forced disappearances.

Muhammad Azam is a development practitioner in Pakistan. He is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Sustainable International Development from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University. He is interested in land planning, digital geographies, and infrastructure-development.