Baloch community in the UAE voices concern after Vash News channel is taken off air
People in the UAE are missing the presence of the only Baloch-language TV channel after authorities in Pakistan reportedly shut it down.
Murad Bukhsh Khosa, a Baloch working in Abu Dhabi’s Ghantoot, said he was addicted to the Baloch-language Vash News, but since Tuesday he had been checking his satellite receiver and the open-air dish to see whether there was a technical problem. However, he said he learnt from BBC Urdu that it had been blocked by Pakistani authorities because of coverage of a so-called “Long March”.
Vash News (‘Good News’ in Baloch) had been extensively covering the march of more than 900 men, women and children of all ages walking to request the recovery of more than 800 missing people who were reportedly picked up by security agencies in different parts of Balochistan. The walk took almost a month from Quetta (the Eastern Balochistan capital) to Karachi, a distance of more than 700 kilometres the group completed about 10 days ago. The channel was launched about four years ago by two brothers, Ahmed and Awais Iqbal from the Makkoran coast of Balochistan, who sold their inherited properties to invest in the electronic satellite channel. The walk began again on Friday, with the intended destination of Islamabad, 1,100 kilometres away.
Zayed Baloch, a Bahraini with roots in Balochistan, and working in Dubai, said he had lost many good friends. “I had two best friends in Gwadar, who are no more. They were picked up from a public bus in Gwadar on the Iran border, and after two months their mutilated bodies were found in Karachi’s slum areas. Now we don’t have our only mother-tongue news channel,” said Baloch. The participants include infants, who are being led by 80-year-old Mama (uncle) Qadeer Baloch, whose son was picked up and found dead in the mountains of Balochistan — badly mutilated and beyond recognition. Another of his sons is still missing. Both were active social workers.
Others from around the region have also registered their disappointment and concern.
A regular viewer of the channel, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Baloch, from Afghanistan said he was missing all the news about Balochistan and the classical music. “This was the main source of news about Baloch and Balochistan. It has just gone off-air last week,” said the former aide of former Afghan President Dr Najibullah Khan.
Abdul Rasheed Al Balushi from Oman was also furious that the channel had disappeared. “This was the only TV channel we had. It has been blocked simply because it is covering the Baloch voice…this is a record long march by men, women and children asking the state to find their loved ones who were picked up by men in uniform from their homes since the General Musharraf era. If they reach Islamabad, it will be a Guinness World Record.”
Ali Hassan, also from Oman, said it was the main source of news and entertainment for the more than one million Baloch expatriates in the Arabian Gulf, who had been naturalised over the past century.
“We all here love to watch Vash News because we get the news about the land where our roots lie,” he said.