April 11, 2023
By Shaukat Korai
For the last seven years, Rashida Begum has been making rounds of courts and police stations, pleading for the recovery of her son Samir Afridi, but her son has remained untraced.
Samir Afridi is among hundreds of ‘missing persons’, a common name for victims of enforced disappearance in the country. Like all families of missing persons, Afridi’s parents have demanded that their son should be presented before a court if he has committed any crime or released if there are no charges against him.
There is no closure for Rashida Begum as she is unaware whether his son is alive or not. She questions how people are made to disappear on mere suspicion and allegation in the country. According to Rashida Begum, bus conductor Sameer Afridi, a father of four children, was picked up along with his friend Hafeez Baloch from Karachi’s Numaish locality in August 2016. Three months later, police lodged a case against Hafeez Baloch for possession of an explosive substance. However, a court acquitted Hafeez Baloch in the case after a few months.
“My son’s children long to meet their father but we have no answer for them when he will return home,”
Rashida Begum told Voicepk.net. Samir Afridi’s parents said that they have approached all authorities to help trace their son’s whereabouts but these efforts bore no fruition.
Rashida Begum said that the Sindh High Court heard her petition for the recovery of her son but the police Counter Terrorism Department was not following court orders. She said a joint investigation team formed to recover her son proved useless too.
The father of another missing person, Dr. Umar Farooq Dar, has also approached the Sindh High Court for the recovery of his son. Dar, a resident of Ahmed Nagar Chattha in the Punjab province, was an associate professor at a medical university in Saudia Arabia since 2016. According to his family, Dar was taken into custody by plainclothed personnel at Karachi airport when he landed in his homeland after a seven-year stay in Saudia Arabia. His father Hafiz Farooq Ehsanullah Dar told Voicepk.net that he was not able to greet his son on his arrival, claiming that his son was picked up by intelligence agency officials. “My wife is a heart patient and our son’s disappearance has aggravated her medical condition,” he told Voicepk.net.
The Sindh High Court has ordered police to register a case of the disappearance of Umar Farooq on the complaint of his father.
Enforced disappearances in Pakistan began after the United States launched its global war on terror following the September 11 bombings. The government established the Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearance (COIED) under the chairmanship of Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal to recover missing citizens. According to the COIED report, 9294 complaints of missing persons have been registered from all over the country. Out of the total complaints, 3380 cases of missing persons were reported from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Balochistan has reported 2192 as missing, the second-highest number of cases. Around 1759 cases were lodged from Sindh; 1,551 complaints were received from Punjab; 339 from Islamabad; 64 from Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 9 from Gilgit-Baltistan. The COIED said 3804 missing persons have returned to their homes, while 623 people were found imprisoned in various cases.
Kaleem Durrani, a former regional coordinator of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Karachi, said the enforced disappearance is a violation of human rights resulting from the state’s policy. “Victims of enforced disappearance are so scared after their return home that they do not even tell the truth,” he told Voicepk.net.
On the other hand, the police have also failed to implement the orders of the Sindh High Court for the recovery of missing persons. In this regard, former DIG Investigation Muhammad Chhital said that there is a need to improve the police investigation. “There is constant pressure on police personnel, therefore, the investigation for the recovery of the missing persons does not bring positive results,” he told Voicepk.net. According to the former police officer, there is not much hope relating to the recovery of missing persons unless the pressure was lifted off of police investigators looking into these cases.