June 8, 2020
By Maqbool Jafar
Like every year, anguish-ridden families of missing persons along with others from the civil society converged outside the Quetta Press Club on Monday, June 8, a date which is marked every year as the ‘Baloch Missing Persons’ Day’.
The protest outside the Press Club was organized by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP).
Pleading with the government to help recover these missing people – their sons, brothers, husbands, and friends – has now become repetitive – almost mechanical – for them, but even after years have passed, the wound is still fresh.
Haseeba Qambrani was in tears and choked on her words as she spoke exclusively to Voicepk.net about how her family had first found the deformed body of one of her brothers and then her other two brothers Hizbullah and Hassan Qambrani both disappeared on February 14.
Hizbullah was a student of BBA at Preston University before he went missing.
“My grief is there for all to see,” she wept. “The biggest tragedy here is that almost every household in Balochistan lives in fear of their men being abducted…they cry about finding the deformed bodies (of their missing loved ones) … we don’t celebrate anything, just mourn,” she said.
Haseeba has lodged an FIR but she can see nothing around her except the haunting look in people’s eyes every time she goes out looking for them.
“In other states their youth is being supported,” she lamented. “Our brothers for whose education we sisters starve ourselves, just so they can make the nation proud, have ended up becoming targets of a witch hunt. I demand an immediate release of my brothers.”
Haseeba pointed out another family’s plight.
“Zakir Baloch’s mother still cries everyday and we don’t understand where to go and what to do anymore. My mother cries too…as for father he has stopped saying anything. But I protest and I not just Haseeba anymore, I am Farzana, I am Mahrang, I am Bramsh and I am Balochistan. Our brothers are either made addicts or abducted,” she cried.
Many of the family members of the missing persons’ claim that their loved ones were abducted by unknown elements from different parts of the country.
Zakir Baloch, has been missing since the last 11 years.
His mother and sister have struggled tirelessly to find him. They not only marched across Pakistan but also took the case up to the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the National Commission for Missing Persons along with the cases of other missing persons from Balochistan.
“Today we have all gathered with the families of missing persons including that of Zakir Majeed Baloch, the Vice Chairman of the Baloch Students Organization, who was abducted from Parangabad, Mastung,” said Mahrang Baloch, whose father Abdul Ghaffar was also abducted and later killed.
Mahrang says that apart from the Interior Minister of that time, then President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari had also assured them of Zakir’s recovery and had said that enforced disappearances were against the Constitution of Pakistan.
In an exclusive conversation with Voicepk.net, Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had said, “I believe that criminalizing enforced disappearances are a part of PTI’s manifesto and is also a part of the PPP’s manifesto so they should support us in this matter. We raised this issue in the committee once or twice and the Government responded that it would legislate this through its cabinet but we haven’t seen any progress on the matter yet.”
As Chairperson of Standing Committee on Human Rights (National Assembly) he also shared that in committee meetings some specific cases had been raised and to question overall tradition of enforced disappearances hence the committee members decided to summon the all Inspectors General, Home Secretaries of all four provinces, and the head of the National Missing Person Commission.
“As far as the criminalisation of enforced disappearances is concerned, I believe that kidnapping is illegal according to the law of Pakistan and yes, we definitely need more legislation for the criminalisation of enforced disappearances in Pakistan but kidnapping your own citizens is already against the law in Pakistan” the chairperson added.
Meanwhile Vice Chairman of VBMP, Nasrullah Baloch demanded that if any missing person had committed a crime then they should be penalized through the courts of Pakistan but they should be immediately released if they are not guilty.
“The issue should be resolved according to the law and if anyone has died in custody then their families must be informed now,” said Baloch.
According to Amnesty International, enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize the practice, there has been slow movement on legislation while people continue to be forcibly picked up and made to disappear with impunity.
Amnesty International’s website also states that the “Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) has more than 2,178 cases unresolved as of now. As per the Commission’s recent monthly report, 48 cases disposed of in the month of January 2019, included 46 traced persons out of which 29 were returned home, 10 were traced to internment centers, five are in jails on terrorism charges and two were described as “dead bodies”. The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance has more than 700 cases pending from Pakistan. The number of cases of victims of enforced disappearance recorded by victim groups are much higher. Victim groups and the civil society have serious concerns with regards to the effectiveness of Pakistan’s COIED, primarily that it is not using its powers to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable and that it does not have civil society or the victims’ group representation on its board.