Abdul Qadeer Baloch, popularly known as Mama Qadeer, is definitely raising questions which hurt the government, but they are definitely not “anti-Pakistan”. The government’s decision to stop the rights activist from attending a seminar in New York is a breach of constitutional rights, both the act and the manner with which it was carried out. Mama Qadeer has been a vocal activist for the rights of the people missing in Balochistan; nearly 18,000, according to Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), his organisation. Surely, the lives of 18,000 people concern the government; even if it doesn’t take up the issue itself – for poorly explained reasons, it can allow the person championing that cause to come and go unimpeded. Even if he is directly criticising state policy and activity, he has that right, the right to voice his dissenting opinion – democracy is built on that right. Using the vague, catch-all phrase “anti-Pakistan” to stop him from raising awareness for the issue is misuse of power. Apart from being principally misguided, his detention at the airport was also procedurally illegal. He was put on the Exit Control List without informing him of the move or clearly explaining the reasons.

Voices of baloch activists such as Mama Qadeer have always fallen on deaf ears, if there were any ears willing to listen at all. A year ago he completed the momentous task of walking 2,000 kilometres, from Quetta to Islamabad, to raise awareness for the issue and to demand answers, and yet people barely know of him. Despite assurances from the government and the courts, the problem lies stagnant and the questions go unanswered. Despite such engineered apathy, restraining him from going abroad is one step too far, one that lends credence to many of his claims. Only a government complicit in ignoring the issue would ban his movement. A government truly committed to its people would take up his cause instead.