July 21, 2022
By Asim Ahmed Khan
Families of missing persons in Quetta on Thursday staged a protest outside the Red Zone against the “fake” encounter in Ziarat by security forces, in which at least five alleged missing persons were killed.
Police however dispersed protesters with teargas, claiming that demonstrators had first pelted law enforcement personnel with stones after they were stopped from marching into the Red Zone.
Thursday’s protest was called by multiple organizations against the killing of “forcibly disappeared persons in a fake encounter” in Ziarat.
Human rights activist Jalila Haider said that women and children, who were participating in the demonstration, were also gassed, with the children being severely affected.
The Provincial Government has stated that the nine people killed in the security operation in Ziarat were all militants, a stance vehemently opposed by anti-enforced disappearances activists who believe that five of the deceased were missing persons.
Adviser to the Chief Minister of Balochistan on Home Affairs, Mir Ziaullah Longau, has denied these allegations and stated that many people listed as “missing persons” are actually hiding in the mountains and carrying out attacks against the state.
“Some are based abroad,” he said, adding that the names of those who were involved in the attacks on the Karachi stock exchange, Pearl Continental Hotel in Gwadar, and Noshki and Panjgur camps were also found in the missing persons list.
Regarding the incident in Ziarat, in which a gang of armed men abducted Lt. Col. Laiq Mirza and his cousin Umer Javed from Warchom on the night of July 12, Longau condemned the horific murder of both men whose bodies were recovered near Mangi Dam between Harnai and Ziarat two days later.
“Kidnapping someone in front of their family and then killing them brutally is against Islamic, Baloch and Pashtun traditions,” he said.
The proscribed Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the incident.
The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the Pakistan military, stated that nine militants involved in the abdictin and murder of Lt. Col. Mirza and Javed were neutralized during the recovery operation, while a havaldar of the security forces also lost his life.
According to the police, the bodies of the alleged militants were shifted to the Civil Hospital in Quetta, where five have been positively identified so far.
Longau claimed that nationalist parties and organizations are painting the incident in Ziarat as an issue of enforced disappearances to gain an edge in politics. His statements come in light of allegations by the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), the National Party and other Baloch nationalist groups that at least five “militants” killed in the operation were reported as missing after they were picked up by security forces.
These parties have called for an impartial investigation into the killings.
Nasrullah Baloch, Vice-Chair of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), an organization comprising relatives of victims of enforced disappearances, claims that all five identified individuals were included in the list of missing persons.
“Their family members had filed missing person complaints with the organization, and protested for their immediate recovery several times,” he said, adding that they have demanded an autopsy which has yet to be carried out..
He demanded a transparent investigation into the incident and said that the motives behind their murder should be revealed so that such incidents do not occur again.
BNP-M chief and member of National Assembly (MNA) Sardar Akhtar Mengal has also called on Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif for an inquiry into the Ziarat incident during a Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) summit in Lahore. He alleged that the five identified missing persons were in government custody before their killing in the encounter with security forces.
“”We have evidence of who was picked where and when,” he said, while demanding that the Prime Minister conduct a judicial inquiry spearheaded by Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court.
According to data compiled by VBMP, of the five killed in Ziarat, Shams Satakzai was abducted five years ago; Shahzad Ahmed Baloch on June 4, 2022; Engineer Zaheeruddin from Airport Road in Quetta October 7, 2021; Dr. Bakhtiar Baloch from Sariab Road on June 4, 2022; and Salim Karim Baksh, who belonged to Panjgur, on July 18, 2022.
Sandeman Civil Hospital Quetta police surgeon Dr. Ayesha Faiz said that the dead bodies of nine persons were brought to her from Ziarat. She said that five claimed bodies have been handed over to the heirs, while the remaining four have yet to be identified.
In a briefing at the Quetta Press Club on Tuesday, Shahzad’s family said that he was allegedly abducted on June 4, 2022, from Musa Colony in Quetta. They stated that they approached the concerned police station to register an abduction complaint, but no such report was ever filed.
Dr. Bashir Ahmad, the older brother of Zaheeruddin, had also reported his sibling’s abduction to the police and had petitioned the Balochistan High Court for his immediate recovery.
Nasrullah Baloch stated that if missing persons were criminals, their families would not have objected if they were punished by the court.
“But to first make them disappear and keep them in prisons and later claiming to have killed them is the height of cruelty,” he added.