May 6th, 2022
By Shaukat Korai
Normally, religious festivals are accompanied by messages of happiness. People prefer to celebrate these events with their families, but sadly not all citizens enjoy such luxuries. This Eid was marked by three different protests outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC). Those protesting were families and loved ones of Pakistan’s ‘Missing Persons’.These families, like last year, spent their Eid demanding the recovery of their loved ones.
Two of the protest camps were set up to demand the release of missing persons picked up from Sindh and Balochistan, while a third was set up to demand justice for a victim of police brutality from Nawab Shah. Sheema Kirmani, a renowned activist, who attended the protests declared enforced disappearances to be the height of oppression and warned the state against an impending revolt if it keeps up the practice. This is why it is the state’s responsibility to find an amicable political situation to this crisis.
“Our happiness is deeply connected with the happiness of our loved ones who have been missing for years. We have forgotten what happiness feels like. We will only celebrate when our loved ones are returned to us,” says a female participant of the protest.
According to Sami Baloch, daughter of the missing Dr. Din Muhammad and leader of Voice for Missing Persons of Balochistan (VMPB), families of the disappeared have no choice but to protest indefinitely because otherwise, people will forget about their plight.
“All political parties promise to recover missing persons when they are in the opposition. And tend to sweep the issue under the rug once they come to power. Mariyum Nawaz also promised the recovery of our loved ones when she was in the opposition but now that her party is in power her promise has not materialized,” says Sammi.
Much like Sammi families of missing persons Safar Baloch and Rashid Baloch also appealed to the newly elected Prime Minister of the country to facilitate the recovery of their loved ones. family members appeal to the Prime Minister of Pakistan and other authorities to rescue the missing persons.
“My uncle(father’s younger brother) was picked up by UAE’s authorities on November 26th, 2018, and was later handed over to the Pakistani authorities. We have been demanding his release since,” says the niece of missing person Rashid Baloch.
“Safar was an average laborer toiling in UAE. He was picked up by the security agencies while on holiday in Pakistan,” says a relative of Safar Baloch.
But despite the optimistic appeals, the participants of the protests seemed disappointed. Many of them believed that even if some of those missing are released by the state, the same number of people will be picked up almost immediately. Pointing out that the practice itself is showing no signs of slowing down.
“Some of the people who participated in today’s protest had their loved ones picked up by state authorities almost 5 to 8 years ago, they have been looking for them since. We have even submitted video evidence of the abductions in court but to no avail,” says renowned Sindhi writer, Taj Joyo.
Taj’s son and founding chairman of the Sindh Sujagi forum, Sarang Joyo, reiterates that their struggle will continue until all missing persons have been released.
Towards the end of the protests, members of the VMPB chalked out question marks on the road. The question mark is directed toward the state and the question is “Where are our loved ones?