April 27, 2023
By Shaukat Korai
The families of missing persons under the banner of Voice for Missing Persons (VMP) marked their Eid with a sit-in outside the Karachi Press Club. The protest camp, which continued for two days, was led by VMP Convenor Surath Lohar whose father was picked up sans warrant in 2017. Years later, Surath’s father was produced in court only to be charged for possession of explosives.
Surath Lohar, who has been actively protesting for the recovery of enforced disappearances including her father, said that her father was once again picked by personnel of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) last month and warned against her advocating for missing persons.
“He was picked up in 2017 and remained missing for the next two-and-a-half years. Since 2017, I personally led a movement for the recovery of missing persons,” she provided. “A few days ago, my father was once again picked up by the CTD but only for a few hours. They tried pressuring us while my sister and I staged a sit-in outside the police station. The only thing they asked my father was why his daughter was running a missing persons movement.”
She posited that the protesters simply demand that missing persons be produced in court if they are guilty of a crime.
“Why are our institutions not producing people in court? This is all we ask,” she said. “The courts and our constitution exist to deal with any person involved in any kind of criminal activity. Our institutions have a duty to inform us whether [our missing family members] are alive or not.”
Around 60 people from Sindh are listed as missing for the past several years.
Faisal Arain disappeared from Karachi in 2012. His mother has been protesting for his recovery for the past 12 years.
“On January 2, 2012, he left home to go to Saddar and went “missing” from there. The state picked up my son. There is no data on him anywhere, they won’t tell us where they took him,” she told Voicepk.net. “He was a twelfth grade student. If he stands accused of anything, then she should be brought before court.”
She recalled that a judge had promised her that her son would be found, but over a decade later there is no word.
“How much more time will they take? It’s already been 12 years, I’ve been pushed from one courtroom to the next and I have not found justice anywhere,” she lamented. “Why have they ruined my son’s life? Why have they ruined his family’s life? 12 years on they forced a statement from my son that he is an addict and left home of his own volition, after 30 JITs (joint investigation teams) already confirmed that he was not involved in anything.”
Pathan Khan Zahrani was picked up in Karachi for a second time in 2019 and his whereabouts remain unknown. His wife Bashiraan and son Irfan Zahrani joined protest calls for his and other missing persons’ recovery. However, Irfan too was forcibly disappeared a few months ago.
Bashiraan said that she alone remains to knock on the doors of courts but has so far been denied even a sliver of information as to their whereabouts.
“My husband was picked up in 2019 from Ghaghar Phatak. My son, who attended protests and would go to court for his father’s recovery, was picked up on January 31 this year,” she related. “They tell me ‘you’ll get him back,’ and give me a date, and I go to court every time they tell me to. If they have committed a crime, then present them in court.”
Sarang Joyo, head of VPM, told Voicepk.net that the protests were held on Eid to convey the message that the contentment and happiness of all the families in attendance lies in being reunited with their loved ones.
“We chose to hold our protest on Eid because our leaders and security forces should feel ashamed of the suffering of the mothers and sisters of missing persons,” he said. “Eid is a day of celebration and happiness. It is unfortunate that the women here, whose brothers, sons and fathers have been missing for years, are grieving on this occasion.”