A fact-finding mission from the United Nations arrived at the ground zero of enforced disappearances, Quetta, on Saturday and met with government functionaries and representatives of political groups.
Amidst the cacophony of contested numbers of missing persons, the mission from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances also encountered relatives and family members of missing persons from across Balochistan, who staged a sit-in outside the Quetta Press Club, and later at Serena Hotel.
The mission arrived in Quetta Saturday morning and met the provincial chief and home secretaries.
Later, the mission headed to Serena Hotel where they met with representatives of various political groups, civil society organisations and relatives of more than 100 missing persons.
Earlier, highly placed sources had said that Inspector-General Frontier Corps Major-General Obaidullah Khan Khattak would not meet the UN mission since he is ‘busy’ with flood relief efforts.
Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Chairman Nasarullah Baloch said he appreciated the UN Working Group for taking the initiative. “We provided them two lists of missing persons. The first included 1,341 people, whose data was complete, while another list had 940 people whose data was not complete,” he said.
He said he informed the mission that Justice Javed Iqbal’s list was far from the reality. Justice Iqbal heads the Supreme Court-constituted judicial commission on enforced disappearances.
Too many missing
Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani, President Balochistan High Court Bar Association and a renowned human rights activist, said he informed the UN mission that the figure of missing persons is contested but one thing is clear – it is too high.
“We told them that some parties say the number of missing persons is more than 12,000; others claim 14,000 are missing,” Shahwani said, adding that he provided them a list of 130 people.
Shahwani added that two petitions had been lodged in the Supreme Court – in 2007 and 2010 –which listed the names of 150 missing persons.
“We informed the mission that the petition was still pending in the court,” Shahwani said.
“We kept three things before the UN Working Group – the issue of missing persons, target killings and the increasing acts of kidnapping for ransom,” he added.
Addressing the media after his meeting with the mission, leader of Baloch Republican Party (BRP) Dr Bashir Azeem said they provided a list of 12,000-14,000 people, collectively prepared by the BRP, the Balochistan National Movement and Baloch Students Organisation-Azad, to the mission.
“We quoted the number of people killed as 4,262 and provided complete data on 2,652 to the UN Working Group,” he said.
Asked how he could verify the whereabouts of 14,000 people, Azeem said: “There are a number of no-go areas in Balochistan, where nobody has access, but people are missing from those places too.”
“Those areas are the main theatre of conflict with the security forces. We know [the missing people] but the state functionaries sometimes say they have left for Afghanistan or other places. The state should know where its citizens are or how they left the country. For us they all are missing,” he added.
“We informed the UN mission that more than 700 persons of [the Hazara] community have been killed and more than 2,000 were injured in targeted attacks,” said Bostan, representative of the Hazara Democratic Party.
He said he was asked if these were sectarian killings.
“I quashed the impression and told the mission that our people were killed as a counter-tactic to hamper the Baloch nationalist movement. These are not sectarian killings,” he added.
Relatives make presence felt
Relatives of missing persons staged a large demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club, and later went to Serena Hotel where they staged a sit-in for several hours.
Addressing the public outside the Quetta Press Club, VMBP Chairman Baloch said that missing persons’ case could not be solved in two hours, or two days. It requires continued efforts, he said.
“The UN should therefore make efforts to stop the atrocities being waged against the Baloch people,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.