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