Wednesday, May 14, 2014

12 Hours on Day 23 of Hunger Strike Till Death

Since April 22nd members of the Baloch Students Organization (Azad) have been gathered at the Karachi Press Club in Pakistan to protest the abduction of the student organization's chairman Zahid Baloch.  For the 23 days since the protest began, BSO-Azad Central Committee member Lateef Johar has been on a #HungerStrikeTillDeath to #SaveBSOAzadLeader .  

As result of his hunger strike, Lateef Johar has descended into a very fragile condition.  Lateef Johar has lost over 17kg, his glucose levels are significantly below normal, and his blood pressure is dangerously low.  Attending doctors have said Lateef is nearing critical condition.

Despite his weakened state Lateef Johar's courage and willpower remains strong.  Since they began the #HungerStrikeTillDeath protest at the Karachi Press club to #SaveBSOAzadLeader.  The young student activists and demonstrators have been faced with; Tear Gas attacks by State Police, counter-protests by fanatical extremist groups, violent threats, as well as a brazen attack on Banuk Kareema Baloch's home in Tump, Balochistan.  Undeterred, the brave young student protesters remain vigilant in their peaceful campaign for the safe release of BSO-Azad Chairman Zahid Baloch.

In a recent interview with Collateral Damage Magazine, Lateef Johar stated:
"If it goes on like this then one day the sun of freedom will rise. Regarding your question about a peaceful solution, let me tell you that since the very beginning we are waging a peaceful struggle and we still believe in it. My hunger strike here is also peaceful. BSO-Azad is a democratic organization" - BSO-Azad Central Committee Member Sangat Lateef Johar

Protest in Kolwah against the abduction of Chairman Zahid Baloch and in solidarity with Sangat Lateef Johar's ‪#‎HungerStrikeTillDeath‬ to ‪#‎SaveBSOAzadLeader
Hyrbyair Marri, Khan of Kalat and Baloch Activists
Demonstrated at Norwegian
Parlaiment in Oslo on May 12th 2014

People throughout Balochistan, and around the world, have shown their support for the Baloch Students Organization through protests, rallies, marches, token hunger strikes, and other demonstrations.  Many sympathetic activists and prominent figures have called upon Lateef to end his hunger strike, but Lateef Johar remains adamant in his resolve to continue the hunger strike until the BSO-Azad CC Chairman Zahid Baloch is recovered

BHRO chairperson Bibi Gul shows
solidarity #12HoursForLateefJohar

Today Lateef Johar is joined in his hunger strike for 12 hours by BHRO, NSF, BSO activists and supporters at the Karachi Press Club. Social Media Activists online and Human Rights advocates around the world are joining the #12HoursForLateefJohar campaign.  Participants are asked to join Lateef Johar in hunger strike for 12 hours in person, in public, at home and online; using the #12HoursForLateefJohar hashtag.

International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons coordinator Aziz Baloch, Journalist and Writer Jahanzeb Hussain, as well as a diverse group of Human Rights Defenders from the South Asian Community and Activists in Canada held a protest rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia yesterday to raise awareness of the ongoing campaign of extra judicial killings and enforced abductions in Balochistan.   

Participants showed their solidarity for the #SaveBSOAzadLeader campaign for the release of extra judicially abducted BSO-Azad Student Leader Zahid Baloch.   IVBMP demonstrators and activists called upon the Canadian Government, Prime Minister Harper, the United Nations, and the entire international community to condemn Pakistan’s policy of enforced abductions and play a role in the safe release of the abducted BSO-Azad student leader Zahid Baloch.

Students and Activists in Toronto, Canada, will be holding a protest at Nathan Philips Square, 100 Queen St. West on May 18th from 4pm until 7pm(EST) to show their solidarity with Lateef Johar’s #HungerStrikeTillDeath to #SaveBSOAzadLeader Zahid Baloch.  The protesters demand Pakistan immediately release imprisoned BSO-Azad Chairman Zahid Baloch & all other political prisoners, as well as immediately cease all military aggression in Balochistan.  Demonstrators also call upon the Canadian government to suspend all financial and political support for the Pakistani regime.

Throughout Pakistan’s aggressive occupation of Balochistan, Occupational State Forces have systematically sabotaged the education of the Indigenous Baloch population.  The enforced abduction and unlawful imprisonment of Baloch Student Leader Zahid Baloch is especially indicative of the ongoing oppression of education in Balochistan.  Learning centers and schools in Panjgur, Turbat, Awaran, Mashkay, Dera Bugti, Mastung, and many other regions have been routinely attacked by Pakistan’s Armed Forces.  Teachers & students are abducted and subjected to acts of torture, and quite often their bullet riddled remains are found dumped. 

During a massive military operation in Mashkay, in April 2014, the Pakistan Army invaded and occupied the local schools. Classrooms were converted into military barracks & detention centers, complete with private torture cells.   In March 2014 State Forces also attacked schools in Panjgur & Turbat.  Students and teachers were threatened & tortured, and the schools forcibly closed.  During the raid in Turbat at least 6 teachers were abducted by State Agents.

Occupational State Forces have forced the closure of countless schools in the region, and seized or destroyed all learning materials & supplies.  As a result, currently more than 2.3 million Baloch children are not attending school.  Since the implementation of the "National Commission for Human Development" (NCHD) in 2002, all of the 615 schools built under the program are now closed.  Although the Occupational State Administration claims to have re-opened 450 of these schools, most of these are state funded religious seminaries.  Baloch classrooms are being systematically replaced by Military Bases and Madrassahs. 

“They want to make the young generation into extremists by depriving them of the study of science, philosophy and creative research. For this purpose, madrassas are being set up in Balochistan. Heavy finances are being provided to these madrassas. The Baloch people are being pushed into destitution. Then, their poverty-stricken children are being enrolled into madrassas. The secular schools set up by the Baloch youth are being forcibly closed and their teachers are being kidnapped.” – BSO-Azad Central Committee Member Sangat Lateef Johar

Through the systematic deprivation of education, the Pakistani state not only enforces a condition of perpetual poverty, but they also cultivate radicalization through fundamentalist religious schools.  Preventing the Baloch people from attaining meaningful education is crucial to the occupational state’s system of oppression. By denying the Indigenous Population of Balochistan adequate education, the Baloch Youth are subsequently prevented from achieving their personal potential and attaining meaningful employment.

Even college dorms and book stores are victimized by State Forces for possessing or selling educational materials.  In January of 2014, State Forces raided a college dorm and proudly confiscated learning material from Baloch students.  During the raid, State Forces subjected the students and a professor to acts of torture, and even abducted one of the students.  In April 2014 bookshops in Gwadar & Turbat were raided by Occupational State Soldiers.  The owners & employees were tortured and abducted, and educational books were seized.
Although the Pakistan Army has readily and proudly accepted responsibility for their oppression of education in Balochistan, an unknown and fictitious terrorist gang Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan have recently distributed flyers in Panjgur and several other areas, threatening residents who send their girls to school.  Baloch Political Leaders, Activists, and Prominent Figures have all released public statements exposing these flyers and Tanzeem-ul-Islami-ul-Furqan as nothing more than Occupational State manufactured propaganda.

As a result of the continual military aggression directed at the learning centers & schools, as well as the distribution of these flyers, many parents in the region have become concerned for the safety of their children and are reluctant to send them to school.  

Pakistan State endorsement of extremism and oppression of education in Balochistan has been an integral component of the occupation of Balochistan for a very long time.  IVBMP coordinator Aziz Baloch describes Pakistan’s policies suppressing secular Baloch culture and modern education through sabotaging education in the region.

“In 1979, During General Zia era who received billions of dollars from US (Reagan Administration) for Mujaheedin (holy worriers) to defeat former USSR in Afghanistan I was a student that time in Quetta. Dictator Zia used all US aid; started opening thousands religious school across Balochistan to counter our secular Baloch national struggle. This Pak- state propaganda is nothing new against Baloch national struggle.”  – IVBMP coordinator Aziz Baloch

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