22 February 2023
By Xari Jalil & Asim Ahmed Khan
Outside the office of the Chief Minister in Quetta, a sit-in by the Marri tribals of Kohlu continues for a second day. The key participant of the protest is Khan Muhamad Marri, whose wife Granaz and two sons Abdul Qadir and Muhammad Nawaz, were brutally murdered, their mutilated bodies discovered at the bottom of a well.
Only a few days ago when 45 year old Granaz and her sons between the ages of 15 and 20 years, had been alive, she had made a video holding the Holy Quran in her hand, and lamenting that she was locked up in a private jail in Barkhan owned by Balochistan Minister for Communication & Works (C&W), Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran and was being subjected to constant abuse.
The video was seen posted on the social media account of the minister’s estranged son, Sardarzada Inam Khetran.
Back Story to Barkhan Incident
The bodies of Granaz and her two sons have been placed outside the CM House in the Red Zone. Marri who is part of the protest says that he is worried for his other children.
“I was told by Sardar Abdur Rehman that he would seek out each and every one from my immediate family and kill them, including myself,” said Marri while speaking to Voicepk. Only a day ago, when the bodies were found, Marri was too frightened to even see the bodies. “This country is not for poor people. It belongs to the ministers, to the elite and powerful.”
Marri explains that in 2019, Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran’s men kidnapped eight members of his family, including his wife Granaz, daughter Farzana, sons Abdul Sattar, Abdul Ghaffar, Muhammad Imran, Muhammad Nawaz, Abdul Majeed and Abdul Qadir and imprisoned them in his private prison of Haji Goth, Barkhan.
At present, five other members of his family continue to be imprisoned, he says. ”Even now, my other children, who are between the ages of eight years and 20 years, are under threat and imprisoned by him,” he says. “Threats are being made to kill me and my children.”
Marri had been working as a guard for the minister for a long time, he said. But things changed when in 2018, Marri was being pressured to testify against Sardar’s son Inam and to become a sworn witness against him. But while Khan Muhammad Marri fled, his family was picked up from Dukki town. Even afterwards, Khan Muhammad continued to raise his voice on different platforms.
“They even took all our belongings from our home, as they kidnapped my family,” he said. “Today he and his officials are not only forcing my family with forced labour in his private prison, they are also being subjected to sexual and physical violence,” alleges Marri.
Allegations and Denial
In an exclusive interview with Voicepk.net, the minister’s son, Sardarzada Inam has alleged that in 2018, he had a disagreement with his father over the transfer of the ownership of vehicles.
“A false case was filed against me for stealing from my own house and pressured Muhammad Khan Marri to testify falsely. But he refused, so my father abducted his family.”
Provincial Minister Abdul Rehman Kathran denied the allegations against him. “If I have a private prison, then go ahead and investigate it. I myself have asked the Chief Minister of Balochistan to form a JIT. But why should I resign for this investigation?”
Abdul Rahman Khetran has also accused his son Sardarzada Inam Shah Khetran of conspiracy. He has rejected the allegations made by his son, and says that he refused to make his son the district chairman in the local body elections, which is why he has turned against him. He also said that this entire campaign against him was actually being run by his political opponents, who do not want to see Barkhan peaceful.
He says that there was a sinister attempt to deprive him of the right of regional politics, and that some elements were conspiring against him to destroy the peace of the Barkhan region. The Minister said that he (Inam) had been the one to record the woman’s statement because he had wanted to become a Sardar.
“I am ready to appear in the investigation but I will not resign. I will also approach the court against any defamation and conspiracy against me. Should I go myself and say that an FIR should be filed against me? It is strange, that my name is being taken as part of an organized conspiracy.”
More Allegations: Murder of Anwar Jan
This is not the first time such an allegation has been levelled against Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran. In July 2020, the murder of a journalist Anwar Jan Khetran shocked several people in the province, even journalist bodies within and outside Pakistan. Voicepk had covered the incident in detail and according to information Anwar Jan’s murder took place on the evening of July 23 at Nahar Kot, in the Barkhan district of Balochistan. Anwar had been on his way home when unidentified gunmen had opened fire at him killing him instantly.
The victim’s brother Sarwar, alleges that Anwar was killed for writing on social media against the atrocities and corruption of the provincial minister, but Abdul Rehman Khetran has denied any involvement in the incident.
“Two or three months ago, Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran and his accomplices had telephoned and threatened my brother for writing against him on social media,” said Sarwar. At that time, Khetran had been Minister for Food and Population Welfare.
Meanwhile, Khetran said that he will go to every forum for the damage done to his reputation.
No arrests made
Late evening on Tuesday February 21, police was seen crawling around the provincial capital’s red zone, as they raided the residence of the Provincial Minister, for the recovery of the abducted family members. According to the police spokesperson, the guest house and other sections of the minister’s residence were searched during the raid, but till then, no recovery was made. Despite the discovery of the three bodies, no case of the incident has been registered.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Zia Langau has issued orders to recover the abducted children of the Marri tribe within 24 hours. He issued directions to the Additional Chief Secretary Home, Inspector General Police, Joint Director IB Quetta, and the headquarters of ISI, MI to recover the children.
“Protection of life and property of the people is the responsibility of the law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Barkhan is the last district on Balochistan’s shared border with South Punjab. On the other side, it is bordered by the Kohlu district, where the Marri tribes live in majority. Border disputes have often regularly arisen between the Marri and the Khetran tribes in the past.
“Assembly Membership of Sardar Abdul Rehman Khetran should be suspended and arrested,” demands Jahangir Marri, General Secretary of the Marri tribe, who is leading the sit-in in Quetta. “Family members do not believe in judicial commission. A case should be registered against Sardar Abdul Rehman,” he added. “The five missing children should be recovered. A judicial commission should be formed under the chairmanship of the judge of Balochistan High Court,” he added, saying, the protest would continue until the demands are not accepted.
The Government of Balochistan has formed a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) led by DIG Loralai Division, to probe the incident. Other members include SSP Investigation Quetta, a representative of Special Branch (SB) Barkhan, and Deputy Commissioner Barkhan. The JIT will compile and submit its report in 30 days, according to official notification.
On the other hand, the brother of the Khan of Kalat, Senator Agha Umar Ahmadzai will convene a grand jirga of Pashtun and Baloch tribal leaders at the Aiwan-e-Kalat Quetta for a consultation on the Barkhan tragedy, according to the spokesperson of Aiwan-e-Kalat house.
On Wednesday, the Balochistan Bar Council also called for the boycott of court proceedings, against the Barkhan tragedy. Bar Council leader, Rahib Buledi announced that no lawyers would appear in court.