July 11, 2020

By Shaukat Korai


Twenty year old Aqib Chandio was abducted from his home in Gulshan-e-Hadeed, a neighborhood in the Malir district of Karachi in the early hours of Tuesday, July 7, 2020, by plainclothes men. Prior to this latest incident, he had been forcibly picked up on May 30, 2018, before being released a year later. It had only been 9 months since he had come back when unknown people whisked away from the young man yet again.

Aqib Chandio is among the many victims of enforced disappearances in Sindh, for which Voice of Missing Persons Sindh has been carrying out protests for their immediate release outside the Karachi Press Club. According to Voice of Missing Persons, 190 people have been abducted since 2017, among whom 127 were eventually produced in court. 26 ‘missing’ persons have been interned for their alleged involvement in various cases, 4 have been abducted a second time, while the whereabouts of 60 individuals remain unknown to this day.

Several weeks ago, the bullet-riddled body of Niaz Lashari of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (Arisar) or JSQM-A, a Sindhi separatist political party was discovered in Karachi’s Peeri area. Lashari had been picked up from Hyderabad in 2018. Sassai Lauhar, coordinator for Voice for Missing Persons Sindh said that their demand for the release of 60 missing persons whose whereabouts have been in the dark for years is within the purview of the Constitution of Pakistan.

“I am not demanding for anything that is beyond our Constitution. If one has violated any of the laws of the country, then they should be produced in court for trial,” she posited.

Inaam Siddique, who had been protesting against enforced disappearances was also later abducted. He had been accused of being an outspoken advocate for the rights of Sindhis.

“I was gone for ten and a half months. Our children are crying out, their hands clasped for the return of their loved ones,” he said. “Those abducted detonated no bombs, broke no one’s window. All they did was protest, and this is what they have to pay for dissent?”

Regional Director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in Sindh, Doctor Imdad Chandio, has reiterated the Commission’s stance that if a person is accused of a crime, then the said individual should be taken to court rather than forcibly disappeared and thrown into detention facilities, which is a gross violation of one’s fundamental rights.

“Even keeping one’s arrest secret from their families, to put these individuals in detention for years on end because they are “anti-state”, is in violation to the Constitution of Pakistan,” he explained.

Former Vice-Chair of the Supreme Court Bar, Salauddin Gandapur explained that enforced disappearances were in direct violation of the Constitution and they deepen grievance rather than reign in “stray” elements in society. It is therefore important of the government to learn lessons from history and prevent another 1971 like situation from happening.

“Among the fundamental rights enshrined within the Constitution, one cannot be arrested nor confined without informing them of the reason for their arrest, after a case has been registered against them,” he stated. “With regards to enforced disappearances, the situation is dire if the state expects a missing person’s family and friends to learn to love the state with the barrel of a gun pointing right at them.”