Pakistan student wages hunger strike over missing Baluch leader

KARACHI- Eyes yellowing but sparkling with determination, Lateef Johar vows to carry on his month-long hunger strike until his missing leader is recovered — or he dies and another young Baluch takes his place.

A month ago the 23-year-old chose to sit outside Karachi Press Club and refuse food, to demand the return of Zahid Baluch, the chairman of the Azad group of the Baluch Students Organisation (BSO).

The missing man was allegedly picked up by security forces on March 18 in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, Pakistan’s southwestern province which is racked by a separatist insurgency.

For a month Johar and other BSO activists searched for their chairman, but in vain.

With the hunt attracting little attention, the central committee of the BSO decided to launch a hunger strike “unto death” and Johar offered himself as the maiden volunteer.

“We just want that at least the world must know what is going on with us and how the state is suppressing our movement by kidnapping and killing our fellows,” Johar said.

The BSO is one of the largest Baluch student movements and favors independence for the vast, mineral-rich province.

Some accuse it of links to violent separatist groups who have waged a 10-year insurgency, with regular bomb and gun attacks on security forces and other symbols of the Pakistani state.