August 11, 2023

By Xari Jalil


“They took my brother away in the early hours of morning. For us that morning has turned to seven long years of waiting,” says Syed Hasan Ali Naqvi.

The disappearance – or rather ‘state abduction’ of his brother pushed Hasan to form the Shia Missing Persons’ Committee, based in Karachi. It has helped him network with other Shia families who have faced similar abductions by the state’s security agencies.

In the case of ‘Nomi’, a nickname for Hasan’s brother Aftab Ali Naqvi, he was picked up in the wee hours of February 25, 2016 at around 6:30 am.

“Around 20 vehicles, 35 motorbikes, and one double-door van all came outside our house in Hassan Colony, with officers in Rangers’ uniforms,” he said while speaking to “They did not bother with formalities of course. They just kicked our door down, woke up the entire family and roughly questioned all of us about my brother’s whereabouts. When they found him, they seized him and dragged him out. That was the last time he was seen.”

Hasan had just had his bypass in those days and was not well, but the very next day he started the search for his brother.

“When we went to lodge an FIR with the Gul Bahar police station, the police refused,” he said. “They said things like, ‘it must have been someone else who had been wearing the Rangers’ uniforms’, but didn’t file the FIR.” It took them one year of persistence with the police to have it filed.

“We tried to reach out to the CJP, the PM, the President…we filed a petition in the court…we have not received any information about my brother from anywhere. Instead, each time we have a sit-in, the ‘institutions’ reach out to me through our Shia ulema and lead me up the garden path, without giving any answers.”

Emotional Toll

Aftab’s children have grown up without a father. His son was in grade three when he was picked up. Today he is in grade nine. His daughter is now in university.

“It is a huge emotional toll – almost the loss of one’s identity because of the loss of one’s relations with a loved one,” he said. “Do these children think of themselves as having a father who will return one day? Or are they now fatherless? Does his wife – and all other such wives – think of themselves as wives, or widows? Where exactly do they see themselves?”

And besides this, the everyday issues that arise are never-ending.

“From applying for a CNIC, to paying for their children’s school fees…these are huge problems for families when their breadwinner is gone,” he says. “We ask the state’s agencies, what is the crime? From the same house, we know seven to eight people have been killed only because they happen to be Shia. And they have no answers for us.”

Hasan says that there have been some people who have come back too, even after five or six years. But they have become mentally unstable, and they are in no condition to find and keep jobs. There have been terrifying accounts of being handcuffed to walls in dark underground cells. Some accounts emerged from when the floods came about and they described how the water had seeped into their cells, while they were blindfolded and handcuffed.

At the same time, no one is willing to help the families of the missing persons because they are scared of the backlash.

“There have been incidents when someone was picked up and beaten up just because they helped a missing person’s family out,” says Hasan. “This has discouraged others from intervening. Meanwhile, we have seen nothing emerge out of our court case.”

Through HRCP the family approached the COEID in Islamabad.

“We were asked the dumbest questions there,” says Hasan. “We were asked ‘Why did your brother go to Sham?’ He had gone for Bibi Zainab’s mausoleum, but is that a crime? They are trying to impose terrorist links onto my brother.”

Hasan says that after they held a protest outside the ISI office in Karachi, about a year and a half ago, there has been no contact with the agencies ever since. “It seems that they don’t want to talk to us,” he says. “When I met them, I told them openly that Taliban were freely operating but it is Shias who are being picked up for no fault of ours. Our children are growing up seeing security agencies picking up their fathers – it is causing damage to their own image.”

It is not just Karachi where the Shia community is being targeted, says Hasan. Other places include Quetta, Dera Ismail Khan, and Parachinar.

“In DI Khan, 13 people from the same family were killed, and one of them has been missing for nine years,” he said.


Nauman Ali’s wife works hard day and night to make ends meet but her life does not seem to be getting any easier. Her family cut off all connections with her when she gave up her religion as a Christian to get married. She lived separately with her husband.

Noman Ali picked up in 2015: His youngest daughter does not even know him. The other two do not remember him.

On August 2, 2015, she says that Nauman was having tea at a stall behind the Babuli Imambargah, at 5 Star Chowrangi, and called to tell her he would be coming home soon after. Soon after she had talked to him, she called him back only to find out that his phone was off. She was surprised because he had only just spoken to her but within minutes his phone was off the grid.

“Since then his phone never went on again,” she says her voice filling up with misery. “I contacted his friends and we tried to find out what had happened. People told us that a car had come and some people in civil clothes had come and taken him with them.”

“Someone must have pointed him out, otherwise how would they have known where he was?” she questioned. “In my story the strange part has been that my in-laws have not supported me at all. I tried hard to have them help me file the FIR, but they did not want to and discouraged me too. But I have not backed down even once. I said to them, “till I am alive I will carry on my search for my husband.”

Eight years later, in 2023, she has finally managed to have an FIR filed, but to no avail.

With three daughters, Noreen struggles to work hard providing home nursing services, but there have been many times when she has had to change jobs because of personal problems.

“Right now I am my children’s mother and father both,” she says. “My youngest daughter was only born when they took away her father. She does not even know what it is like to have a father. He was the only son but his own parents stay away from this case for some reason. They just don’t want to make rounds of the police station or the courts.”

Nauman Ali used to work in Rex Centre in a clothing business. According to his routine, he used to sit with his friends after work, and then come home. “I don’t know what his activities were, what he said, or who he sat with,” she says. “But it has been so long and my girls and I have been struggling without him. If he is a criminal then send him to prison, but at least bring him in front of us.

“I often ask myself, will our children even remember their father, or will he just fade into oblivion, like he never existed?”



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