8000 people still missing in Pakistan

Missing Persons a Critical Scio-Political issue of Pakistan

Right to life with liberty and dignity is one of the fundamental human rights. Human rights are universal and all human being are entitled for all human rights (civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights) regardless of cast, tribe religion or social and political affiliation. Since the inception of state of Pakistan authoritarianism, centralism and religious nationalism have dominated the psyche of rulers. Ruling elite of Pakistan has tried to evolve a monolithic nationalism by hook and crook that has entailed enormous conflicts between the centre and provinces. Sidelining the diverse national groups in the form of Balochs, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Seraikis and Punjabis, the establishment has carved out amorphous Pakistani nationalism derived from one religion. In the first three decades of the existence of the country one of the provinces (now Bangladesh) has seceded due to this obduracy but people at the helm of affairs of the state are not ready to pay attention to this.

Apart from Bengalis, who opted for separate homeland, various ethno-national movements in Balochistan, Sindh, Pashtunkhuwa and Kashmir have challenged this state imposed nationalism. These movements underpinned by different ideological leanings have one commonality that they resist the centralism and authoritarianism that strip them of their respective identity, history, culture and resources. As it happens with the political movements that they remain active and at some point of time they become latent but the questions stirred up in the minds of masses get manifested in various forms of resistance.

Balochistan and Sindh has always been hub of such political movements. From the beginning of this country till now, Balochistan has fought around five insurgencies with the centre to obtain its socio-political and economic rights. Present insurgency started in the Mushraf era (2005) is still going on, which has caused innumerable disappearances of political workers affiliated with various nationalist Baloch political parties. Time and again Baloch leaders, intelligentsia, journalists and masses have indicted spy agencies of Pakistan that they have picked up the political workers. Several leaders and political workers have been killed in cold blooded manner in which the murder of veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, Balach Marri, Ghulam Muhammad Baloch and Habib Jalib are significant. The media is apparently muzzled on this issue and it is almost clear to the masses in Pakistan and world at large that dismissal Chief Justice of Pakistan by Musharaf was precipitated by the active pursuance of the cases of disappeared workers that irked the general. Even though chief justice of Pakistan has been restored, the families of disappeared people of have yet to see the justice and get their dear ones released.

Incidences of disappearance and mysterious killings are continuing but institution of the state such as courts and parliament seem to be silent on these issues. On the other hand the phenomenon of disappearance has caused ambiguities in terms of determining the number of disappeared people; however Baloch leaders claim it in thousands, whereas police records are mum on this. It has intensified the conflict. Certain political parties and armed resistance groups within Balochistan have openly started demanding separation from the Pakistan that is why federal government has recently declared some political parties and armed groups as proscribed. In this state of affairs it has become difficult for political workers to continue their political activities so civil and political liberties in the Balochistan are completely denied and people are living under ever looming fear of being picked up, disappeared and killed.

Simultaneously agencies have been involved to disappear several political workers in Sindh in which cases of Asif Baladi, Dr. Safdar Sarki were significant during 2006-7. A number of political activists and common people are disappeared over the period of time and some of them have been found killed in which murder of Saeed Kalhoro during 2005 found wide coverage in local dailies. Disappearances are taking place in various cities and particularly in areas close to Indian border but again media is not reporting such cases due to the reign of terror being perpertrated on anyone, who speaks on this issue. In the same vein people have been picked up from Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa and Kashmir but none is coming forward to take up this issue and hold the agencies accountable.

Agencies are acting against law of land by denying people to exercise their basic human rights of association, freedom of speech and recourse to legal aid in case of being implicated in any case. The families of disappeared persons are suffering since long and their despair does not seem ending any time soon. The issue of disappearance has assumed enormous proportion, which require from human rights organizations within and outside of the country to raise the voice against this highhandedness on the part of state agencies and hold the state accountable for the denial of rights to the people of Balochistan and other provinces. In this regard it is essential to bring political parties and social movements in the fold to wage college struggle across the country to combat centralism and authoritarianism that a way-forward can be achieved in this regard. As per different media reports thousands of people particularly political activists have been kind napped and abducted by different security and intelligence reports even in Balochistan only more than 8000 people are disappeared.

Round Table Conference
On Dec 10, 2010 On the occasion of international human rights day the International Institute for Research and Education, Asian Human Rights Commission and Labour Education Foundation jointly organized a round table conference titled “The tragedy of Missing Persons-Role of State and Responsibility of Civil Society”. The conference focused on, ongoing burning issue of Missing persons.

Conference Objectives
1. To sensitize the human rights and political activists to take this issue as a priority and constantly raise it at different forums/levels (local, national and international) and build a social movement against the worst human rights violations and political victimization of human rights and political activists in the country and Kashmir
2. To influence and build pressure on government and other stakeholders to play their role for the recovery and release of the missing people

A Large number of activists from different walks of life, especially political parties, human rights organizations, Lawyer association and trade unions, attended the conference. The conference was moderated by Nisar Shah Advocate, Secretary General LPP and Director IIRE. On the opening of the conference Sohail Ahmed a human rights activist introduced the issue of Missing persons.

Sohail Ahmed mentioned in his presentation that there is no proper data of missing persons available but according to the different sources in all over the country around eight thousand peoples are missing four thousand of them from Baluchistan and four thousands from Khyber Paktoonkwa, Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir. He also mentioned that a large number of missing persons are political activists from Baluchistan and were picked up by intelligence agencies.

Waleed Bloch, representative of Bloch Student Organization (Azad), appreciated the initiative of conference on missing persons, he mentioned that the figures of missing persons from Baluchistan are very high, he said that the persons outside the Baluchistan cannot imagine, how much the political victimization the Bloch youth are facing. He said that Baluchistan had become a hub of intelligence agencies network. Waleed said that sixty years have passed but we are still facing state repression, military and civil bureaucracy want to suppress our voice but know the Bloch youth are on the way of revolt which will lead Baluchistan towards a revolution.

Wajid Ali Wajid representative of United Kashmir Peoples National Party said that a large number of Kashmiri youths are still missing after the Pakistani intelligence agencies’ and religious fundamentalist waged a holy jihadies in Indian administered Kashmir in 1988. He said that his party raised the voice against this proxy war but had to face the consequences. The central chairman of party Sardar Shoukat Ali Kashmiri was picked up by intelligence agencies and tortured about nine month in hidden place and we are still facing the political victimization.

Professor Khalique Ahmed the spokesperson of All Parties National Alliance said the freedom of speech is fundamental right of every person but unfortunately the state wants to revoke this right of citizens. They don’t want to listen to even a single word against their policies. People are facing the state-sponsored repression and terrorism. He said that it is easy for intelligence agencies to accuse someone of being unpatriotic and keep him under custody at any hidden place.

Amna Massod Janjua chairperson Defance of human rights, an NGO working on missing persons, said that her husband Masood janjua was picked up five year ago, and he is still missing. She said that her children are still waiting for his safe return. She said that she is very thankful to the organization which organized the event.

Malik Maqbool Awan, leader of PTCL workers ittehad, said that Pakistan has ratified a number of international human rights conventions and declarations but nobody can exercise these rights independently. He said PTCL workers are facing the brutality of state. We are strictly against the privatization of PTCL. The negative impact of PTCL privatization can be felt now. Thousands of workers have been rendered jobless and the managements has withdrawn a number of facilities that workers were enjoying previously. Privatization also affected consumers and there has an increase in line rents and other services of the organization. When the trade union leaders their raised voice against the sacking of workers and withdrawal of facilities, the management of PTCL lodged fake cases. The management views trade unionist as terrorists and it has lodged a number of cases against the workers which fall under the Anti- Terrorism Act. He strongly supported the recovery campaign for missing persons.

Representatives of Labor Party Pakistan, Islamabad Bar Association, Human Rights Movement, Kashmir National Party, Kashmir National Conference, Jammu Kashmir Peoples National Party, Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Batta Mazdoor union and Progressive Youth Front also attended the conference. The gathering put forward the following demands:

1. All missing persons should be released unconditionally

2. If Government has any charges against any person, he should be produced before courts.

3. Compensation should be paid to the all involuntary disappeared persons’ families.

4. Those who are responsible for this disappearance should be trialed by the courts.

The conference decided to form a joint working group to continue the campaign for the recovery of missing persons.

Azhar Iqbal Secretary LPP Rawalpindi/Islamabad concluded the conference with vote of thanks.

Report provided by Nisar Shah Advocate
Director IIRE Islamabad Cell No: +92-300-2147960
Email: rednisar33@hotmail.com

Conference organized by
International Institute for Research and Education Islamabad (IIRE) Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
Labour Education Foundation (LEF)


Shaheed Bibi Taslim Solangi: Investigation Update on ‘Property’ Killing

Following is a statement from Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regarding the Zardari/Nafisa Shah probe into the abhorent ‘honour’ killing of a teenager carried out by her uncle/father-in-law in March 2008 to get her property.

The barriers indicated below by the AHRC regarding this investigation are indicative of the barriers faced by investigators and human rights activists in other cases of ‘property’ killings where women were ruthlessly murdered by their male family members; for example, in the investigation of the Alive Burials of Eight Baloch women this July.

As in most cases of ‘Property’ killings, male family members do it in connivance with local officials and dignitaries; and, the ‘punishments’ are often sanctioned by a Jirga (usually a group of influential men of the area/clans) to preclude any possibility of legal consequences for the individuals who order and perform murders for greed.

Because such crimes of greed and revenge are committed after manipulating the local community with favors and threats, the code of silence is observed with fastidiousness.

Shaheed Bibi Taslim Solangi was murdered in March, we come to know of it in October. The Eight Shaheed BibiaN were buried alive in Baba Kot in July, we came to know of it at the end of August. Still, all the graves have not been found, and so all autopsies have not yet been performed. In both cases, the perpetrators, the psychopaths who killed their daughters, sisters and aunts are roaming free enjoying the influence of their protectors that reside at all levels of the government and society. From the local council, local police official and the local religious conservative formations, to the provincial government, the Senate and the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, the criminals and the abusers are being protected.

Another curious aspect is that the ‘overseas’ organizations that i have seen working with exemplary zeal to fight for justice are either silent or paying lip service against these worst breaches of human rights, the loss of innocent lives. For example, the people who had done a great job in North America regarding the disappearance of Sindhi American political activist Dr. Safdar Sarki, are silent about the familial murder of Taslim Solangi in Sind; and, the organizations who were raising hell to get Bibi MukhtaraN Mai the permission to visit United States of America, are silent about the alive burials of eight women in Balochistan. And the members of an online list who were earlier taken by Zardari/Palin vicariousness, are now happily engrossed into the outcomes of the recent US presidential elections.

Meanwhile, women are being killed for property by their male family members at the minimum rate of Five per Day, the cases come to surface months after the murders happen obscuring conclusive evidence against the killers, the witnesses are coerced and killed for speaking out, the murderers enjoy the support and protection of the influentials.

This cycle of violence, theft and control that is taking so many lives of women in Pakistan, is perpetuated by and in the interest of privileged Muslim men of (mainly) conservative viewpoints and propertied classes against either women of their own families or against women of lesser social status. The following update shows how efficiently this privileged group is able to safeguard its interests against victimized members of their own families.

Fauzia Rafiq
Nov 8/08

Government tries to derail the case of a young girl who was shot dead after being mauled by the murderer’s dogs*

The special representative of President Asif Zardari has completed her probe into a brutal murder of a 17-year-old girl that came to light late October and she will submit report in a day or two.

The case, which may be seen at ahrchk.net/statements involved the killing of Ms Taslim Solangi in Sindh Province in March 2008 by her uncle/father-in-law (the irregularity of the uncle being the father-in-law is due to the Muslim custom that allows marriage among cousins).

The girl was mauled by dogs and then shot dead in front of her father after he refused to hand over land to her husband’s family. The report, which has been sent to the president, is gravely flawed.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is not satisfied with the probe, firstly, because it was carried out in the presence of the same officials who allowed the case go un-investigated for several months (during which time a Jirga court was held, the murderers vindicated and an unrelated person punished).
Mr. Liaquat Ali Abbasi, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) is still performing his duties, he was holding the same office on March 6 when the murder of Taslim Solangi happened and he was not prepared to take action against perpetrators of an honour killing.
The Sub Inspector, Mr. Yar Mohammad Phalpoto, the investigation officer of the case, is also still at his post even though he has yet to carry out any investigation. His presence is itself a good demonstration of intimidation and misuse of power.
Mr. Pir Mohammad Shah, the District Police Officer (DPO) has been in the district since August and is fully aware of the honour killing of a 17-year-old girl but has not initiated any inquiry in to the case. During his presence the father of the girl was kept in detention and on more than one occasion was paraded naked in the village. Once again the DPO has done nothing.
The girl’s father-in-law, Mr. Zameer Solangi, and his brother Mr. Habib Solangi are still at large and living openly in the neighbourhood where the crime took place (Shah Jana and Ahmedpur). The former has openly threatened to kill the parents of the girl.

In such a situation such a probe cannot be impartial and it is surprising that the representative, Ms Nafisa Shah, did not consider this. As a result it is unsurprising that evidence has been so scant and legitimate witnesses hard to come by.

The parents and other family members of the dead girl have been taken 500km away to Khairpur Mirs, where they were kept for some days in a vocational school by the police. There, with the connivance of local administration the family members and friends of the killers arranged demonstrations against the parents of victim. Police officials who have visited Taslim’s detained
relatives at vocational institution at Khairpur city have indicated that they (Parents of Taslim) will be arrested for murder of their daughter, once Ms. Shah completes her probe and leaves the area.

Sindh police seem to be giving unusual credence to a first information report (FIR) filed by Zameer, the girl’s murderer, on March 6, 2008, in which he names her parents as the killers. Some other pieces of evidence, such as that provided by a journalist, Mr. Ajeeb Lakho, from Daily Koshish (who saw bite injuries on the girl’s body just after the incident) has not been accepted by Ms. Shah, the probe officer.

The AHRC would also like to point out that this incident occurred in Ms Shah’s electoral constituency, and that she – considering her position as a defender of woman’s rights – may find it embarrassing to concede that such atrocities can take place and remain un-investigated for half a year on her patch.

In terms of evidence and of witnesses, it should be known that while statements were being taken from local residents, the main question being pushed was the identity of the person who released the information to the outside world. Such people, should they become known, would be in danger.

All such statements were taken before the area’s district police officer or members of the local administration. The officials did not accept the eyewitness testimony of the victim’s father, who was detained and forced to watch as his daughter was mauled. On the other hand they have stood by a report offered by the perpetrators themselves. It is also curious that the administration has not yet been able to find Taslim’s grave, and therefore cannot perform an autopsy.

The AHRC demands that:
– The probe of the incident should be conducted by such a person who should belong to an unrelated area and who has no vested interest in the case.
– All high officials of the administration and police who have been involved in the case or who have been located there since several months should be replaced, since their presence is contrary to an independent and impartial inquiry.
– A new board of doctors must be formed to conduct the autopsy of the body of Taslim Solangi, when located, and
– All those with suspected involvement in this most brutal murder must be arrested, to allow witnesses to come forward in safety.
– Taslim’s family is currently in a vulnerable position. They must be provided with legitimate
security, while remaining involved in the case.

From Baseer Naveed at baseer.naweed@ahrc.asia
Nov 7, 2008