Teachers at Karachi University defied a ban and repression to go ahead with a meeting on Unsilencing Balochistan on Wednesday of last week.
Many hundreds attended to discuss “disappearances” in the province of Balochistan, despite an operation by university security staff to prevent people from coming onto campus.
Since 2004 thousands of Baloch, mainly young men, have been “disappeared” only to be found later, tortured and killed with their mutilated bodies thrown onto a road.
The event had first been planned at Lahore University of Management Sciences in early April. But it was cancelled after “orders from the government” almost certainly delivered by the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence.
Two weeks later human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud, director of The Second Floor (T2F) arts centre in Karachi, agreed that it would host a meeting on the same subject. But she was shot dead as she drove home from that organising meeting on 24 April.
So it was no small thing for Teachers against War and Oppression to organise to hold the event.
Organiser Riaz Ahmed said, “We are taking Sabeen’s vision forward. She gave up her life for unsilencing the voice of Baloch missing persons.”
It was addressed by Mama Abdul Qadeer and Farzana Majeed Baloch of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons’.
They became widely known for walking across Pakistan in 2013 to highlight the disappeared. Qadeer’s son is one of those missing.
There has been an insurgency in Balochistan since the Pakistani government occupied it a year after gaining its own independence from the British empire in 1948.
This terror is growing as security in the area has become a priority for the Pakistan government.
It plans to create a giant new “economic corridor” across Balochistan to the new port at Gwadar—with multi-billion dollar transport, energy and telecoms projects financed by China.
The seminar was organised to show that academic freedom cannot be suppressed.