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Enforced Disappearances - A Threat to Education in and outside of Balochistan

Since the early 2000s, thousands of Balochis have been forcibly abducted by the Securtiy Forces operating in the area. According to HRCB data, since 2016, at least 3,738 people have been forcibly disappeared. The majority of these enforced disappearances have been those of students. However, this process of profiling and abducting students is not limited to Balochistan. Even the Balochi students enrolled in universities in other provinces of Pakistan are not safe from forcibly disappearing. In April this year, a Balochi student was picked up by the security forces from the Punjab University hostels in Lahore. The video of him being forced into a vehicle went viral on social media, and several activists protested against it. This was the only reason this was brought to the public's attention. Otherwise, like numerous other cases, this would have gone unnoticed.

But what role do enforced disappearances play in education?

The main obstacles to education in Balochistan are security threats and the lack of educational infrastructure available in the province. In hopes that the situation would be better for them outside Balochistan, many students strive to enroll in universities outside the province. However, incidents like those of Feroz Baloch, a 17-year-old student from Balochistan who was abducted from his university campus in Rawalpindi, discourage students from enrolling in universities and having a chance at a better life.

Students who were afraid of attending universities in Balochistan, when they see that the situation is not better outside, decide to opt-out of going to university. Similarly, many enforced disappearances in Balochistan have been those of the families' breadwinners. Having to choose between survival and education, households choose survival, and hence many children, especially the oldest ones, are forced to leave their education to provide for their families. Not only this, but many victims of these disappearances belong to lower socio-economic backgrounds. When the financial situation is already dire, coupled with the breadwinner's loss, many families cannot afford to send their kids to school.

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