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“Death can’t silence us anymore.”

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In May this year, Sajid Hussein Baloch, a Baloch journalist and activist, went missing in Sweden and was found dead days later. His alleged killers did not leave any trail behind.
Last week another prominent Baloch activist and the champion of missing persons’s rights, Karima Baloch, went missing in Toronto and, like Sajid, was found dead. Again her killers didn’t leave any trail behind.
What do these mysterious deaths of Baloch dissidents tell us? Well, if anything, the pattern of these deaths shows that they can’t be a coincidence. There is definitely a motive and strong hands behind them.
Exiled activists now fear that Pakistan’s secret service is going after them and targeting them even abroad. They don’t feel safe in their countries of refuge as Karima and Sajid’s deaths have shown.
Karima fought against the ruthless state machine and against a deeply segregated patriarchal system that leaves no role for women outside the home’s four walls.
The western governments must ensure the security of the exiled dissidents in their countries. What is the point of asylum programs if the governments from which activists and intellectuals flee target them in the countries where they take refuge?
Violent repression has been the state’s modus operandi against ethnopolitical movements in Pakistan. The state has waged at least six wars against the Baloch in the past seven decades.
In these wars, the security forces have used indiscriminate violence against the Baloch people. Disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killing and mass graves are some of the gruesome acts of violence.
Pashtuns, Sindhis and Mohajirs in Karachi have also faced the heavy-handedness of the state. Kidnapping, threatening, torturing, jailing and killing activists is now a normal response to protesters who have genuine grievances.
Two weeks ago, Pakistan’s police arrested an elected parliament member and PTM’s leader Ali Wazir on trumped-up charges. Ali has lost 14 to 17 family members to terrorist violence.
Ali Wazir’s elder brother said in a video message that his family fears Ali’s assassination by state authorities in jail. The state relies on violence so much that such news does not surprise activists now, but it is nevertheless terrifying.
It was against Ali Wazir’s arrest and Karima Baloch’s death that PTM-USA organized an online conference. Both Baloch and Pashtun political leaders, activists and academics participated in the event.
Speaking at this joint session, one of PTM’s central leaders, Mohsin Dawar, said, “we are not afraid of death anymore. We will continue our struggle against state repression.”
Nabi Bakhsh Baloch, a Baloch political and human rights activist, echoed Mr. Dawar’s message that the Baloch people can not be silenced by such tactics. He said, “death can not silence us anymore.”
Sana Ijaz, a prominent female Pashtun rights activist and a leader of PTM, said violence and death can’t silence the people’s voice.
PTM’s central leader Manzoor Pashteen said the state’s ruthless and indiscriminate repression of rights activists is only giving more strength to the movement. He said people are joining the movement in droves.
Of course, it is regrettable that activists have to risk their lives to merely achieve their fundamental social and political rights. Rights that the constitution guarantees, but the ruling elites deny them.
The title may seem to romanticize the notion of death, but it is so unfortunate that activists are forced to prepare for such a consequence because of their moral and political uprightness.
No human being deserves to die or sacrifice themselves just to protect their fundamental rights. But that is the sad reality of life in some countries.
Listening to the Pashtun and Baloch men and women fighting for their people’s rights, I heard so many sad and inspiring stories of tough struggles.
Karima had lost two uncles to state violence. She had seen the dead bodies of friends and relatives who lost lives while fighting for their people’s rights.
However, nothing silenced Karima. Not even death. She is gone physically from this world, but she will remain a thought and a resistance symbol for generations to come.
Those who die for truth and a cause greater than themselves leave a powerful legacy behind that no power on earth can erase.


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