Campaign in London, Birmingham still on for ‘end to enforced disappearances’ in Pakistan, Manchester company behind controversial banners

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BIRMINGHAM: Activists from the ‘World Baloch Organisation’ and the Baloch Republican Party continue their campaign to highlight the human rights situation in Pakistan. In their latest initiative, roadside billboards have been put up around the city of Birmingham capital London with slogans “Help end enforced disappearances in Pakistan”.

The billboards have gone up on major roads and junctions around the city including highways. This comes as Birmingham hosted Pakistan vs New Zealand ICC cricket world cup match, attracting thousands of cricket fans to the city. The activists hope to grab the attention of cricket fans.

According to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, an entity established by the Pakistani government, 5000 cases of enforced disappearances have been registered since 2014. Most of them are still unresolved. Independent local and international human rights organisations put the numbers much higher. 20,000 have reportedly been abducted only from Balochistan, out of which more than 2,500 have turned up dead as bullet-riddled dead bodies, bearing signs of extreme torture.

This comes as part of an ongoing campaign by the groups to highlight cases of disappearances in Pakistan for which human rights organisations have blamed Pakistan’s security forces. The campaign has included Billboards in London, Guerrilla advertising, and adverts placed in top UK newspapers.

Times ad

A full-page advert in ‘The Times’ has called for an end to Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan. The advert has been published in The Times newspaper, a newspaper which is said to be “an integral and important part of the political structure of Great Britain” with an average daily circulation of 417,298.

The advert placed by the World Baloch Organisation and Baloch Republican Party reads in bold letters “ Help End Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan”, highlighting the dire human rights situation in Pakistan, urging for the end of killings, torture and particularly enforced ‘disappearances’  by the Pakistani establishment in the Balochistan, Sindh and KPK.

Bhawal Mengal from the WBO said “Oppressed voices are constantly suppressed in Balochistan, they make sure anything happening there does not reach the ears of the outside world, they have tried there best to suppress our voices internationally as well but have not been successful at it, this advert will be seen by hundreds of thousands of people who we hope will come forward and help put an end to this carnage”.

Nawab Brahumdagh Bugti, the President of the BRP and a leading figure in the movement said “We hope these adverts make the international community at least look into the matter, they should stop turning a blind eye towards an issue that is in desperate need of the world’s attention. If ignored, the situation will keep getting worse and our people are the only ones who suffer”

Manchester company

According to media reports, an unauthorized airplane flew over the Headingly Cricket Ground during an ICC match between Pakistan and Afghanistan carrying controversial banners.

The incident was followed by violent scenes outside the cricket ground between supporters of the two teams. Police have taken two persons in custody. Footage of the brawl has emerged on the social media.

An airplane flew overhead towing the messages “Justice for Balochistan” and “Help end disappearances in Pakistan”. An ICC source told the media that the “aircraft was unauthorized” and said that Leeds air traffic will investigate the matter.

Leeds Air Control, however, said they were not aware of the incident and had no prior instructions preventing the operator from allowing the plane to fly over the ground with the banners.

Interestingly, a similar attempt by a Manchester-based company, Arabian Nites (Manchester) Limited to fly “Justice for Balochistan” banner was thwarted by the British High Court Judge, Mr Justice Murray, in a judicial review.

The court disallowed the company to fly these banners through Air Ads Limited after the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police disallowed the activity stating the message was capable of inciting hatred if allowed to fly over Old Trafford where Pakistan was playing against India, the media reports added.

Political messages about Balochistan have constantly sprung up in the last couple of years on billboards, passenger busses and taxis in British cities. They were taken down when strong protests were lodged by members of the British Pakistani communities to relevant British authorities saying the activity, allegedly sponsored by third party financial backing, could harm inter-communities relations in British cities.