July 18, 2023
By Staff report
In an interview with a private news channel, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah held that enforced disappearances are carried out in the interest of the state as they are a tactic adopted by the Armed Forces to combat terrorist elements operating within Pakistan. He also stated that extraneous circumstances appear to be involved in the disappearances of Imran Riaz Khan, Mudassar Naaru and Azam Khan.
In the Spotlight interview, journalist Munizae Jahangir posed a query regarding the state’s investigation into the disappearance of journalist and YouTuber Imran Riaz Khan, whose whereabouts remain unknown since he was arrested by police from the Sialkot Airport in the early hours of May 11, 2023.
Sanaullah said that the investigation has so far not progressed as the former anchorperson’s family has not named any suspect in their missing persons complaint. With regards to the Inspector General (IG) of Prisons presenting footage of Riaz being allegedly picked up in a black Vigo (a vehicle commonly used by the military in enforced disappearances) upon his release from jail as evidence in the Lahore High Court (LHC), the minister stated that an investigation will be carried out once the individuals in the footage are identified.
As to why the government has yet to identify the people seen in the evidentiary footage, he stated that
“We have yet to identify an accused because often when missing persons return, they deny ever being picked up. Rather, they say they were with relatives.”
Sanaullah also cast doubt over the circumstances surrounding Azam Khan, former Principal Secretary of the former Prime Minister Imran Khan, disappearance from the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) on June 15, 2023.
“Does it make sense that a person of the rank and position as Azam Khan would leave his home completely alone? Imran Riaz… he also went to Sialkot all alone. Why was no one with them?” he posited. “There were no family members, no guard accompanying them who could have seen what [the accused] looked like, what the vehicle looked like, the number on the plate…”
He also clarified that he made no such statement that Azam Khan’s family were able to establish contact with the disappeared officer, rather that his family has not followed up the government regarding his case, which lends him to believe that they were satisfactorily aware of Azam Khan’s whereabouts.
On the question of Mudassar Naaru’s disappearance on August 20, 2018, Sanaullah stated that the details of the case reveal multiple possibilities as to what really happened to the journalist.
He also held that enforced disappearances were a tactic to counter extremist elements in Pakistan.
“Was there ever any news of missing persons before terrorism in this country? The Forces are using their powers to control the situation,”
he said, adding that it is possible that some disappeared persons are held to conduct an investigation. “But it also happens that people leave (their homes) to go fight (against the state).”
The Federal Minister said that a large number of names included in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) nearly 10,000 strong operational forces were declared ‘missing persons’.
“The solution to [enforced disappearances] is that all stakeholders gather together for dialogue. The former Chief of Army Staff even said that there needs to be legislation for this,”
he held. “However, he also insisted that [the state] will present [families] with the truth provided they also give us the truth.”
On the matter of putting such legislation on the anvil, Sanaullah said that no one is willing to partake in it as civil society organizations are likely to vehemently oppose it.