Campaign to bring missing persons back home gains momentum

Protesters demand commission be formed headed by people of national repute to conduct impartial investigation


Z Ali May 27, 2018
PHOTO: EXPRESS

HYDERABAD: Taking the protest movement over the missing persons issue to the next level, a rally held on Saturday in Hyderabad declared a plan to unite Sindh over the issue. Organised under the banner of the Human Rights Coordination Committee, Hyderabad, the rally started from the Old Campus building and participants walked their way to the press club passing through Haider Chowk.

The families of the missing persons, nationalist leaders, writers, lawyers, journalists, university teachers and students participated.

"Missing, missing, the whole of Sindh is missing," were the slogans chanted. "Missing, missing the law and Constitution are missing."

As the rally marched over half a kilometre, nationalist songs were sung amid the slogans.

Outside the press club, street theatre was performed highlighting the manner in which people are whisked away and the consequences of these actions.

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Reading out the resolutions passed at the rally, columnist Imdad Chandio said the committee will play a leading role in uniting Sindh on the one point agenda of enforced disappearances.

It was demanded that a commission, headed by persons of national repute, should be formed to conduct an impartial investigation into the issue and to investigate the extrajudicial killings of missing persons. Implementation of the Supreme Court's order on missing persons was also demanded.

It was declared that the law enforcement agencies violate the law by subjecting people to enforced disappearances. Political parties were blamed for being hands in glove with the establishment in this crime because, despite the 18th Amendment, these parties are reluctant to perform their responsibility to protect the citizens.

The resolutions called for bringing an end to the process of enforced disappearances and for the release of missing people, who should be produced before courts if they are involved in crimes.

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Neelum Arejo, daughter of food inspector Khadim Hussain Arejo, said that she herself was booked in three cases since she became part of the movement to secure the release of her father. Khadim was whisked away from Hyderabad in April 2017.

"We have spent our Eid and other important days last year in protest and outside press clubs, but the rulers are not budged by our sufferings," Neelum lamented. According to her, on the Sindh High Court's (SHC) order, multiple joint investigation teams were formed, but her father has yet to be found.

Sassui Lohar, daughter of Hidayat Lohar, who was whisked away on April 17, said that so far she has observed a hunger strike 17 times in Karachi and other cities. She claimed that her father's disappearance has delayed her brother Sarang's marriage. A petition has also been filed in the SHC. "If my father has committed a crime, charge him and produce him before the court," she demanded.

Another missing person, Aijaz Gaho's mother Sughran Gaho claimed that her son was innocent and worked as a cable operator in Sann, Jamshoro.

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"Our education has come to a standstill since our father was whisked away," Sindhia Shaikh, daughter of publisher Inam Shaikh, said.
Aasma Jarwar, wife of Badin district's missing person Raza Jarwar, bewailed that even the courts could not help recover her husband who has been missing for over a year.

Islamabad-based Mehran Students Committee leader Sanaullah Aman said their committee has started a movement in Islamabad to highlight the issue of missing persons in Sindh. If the missing persons are not released within 15 days, the protest in Islamabad will intensify, he added.

Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party leader Dr Qadir Magsi, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz leader Sanan Qureshi, Jeay Sindh Mahaz's (JSM) Riaz Chandio and other nationalist leaders participated and expressed their views.

Civil society activist and intellectual Jami Chandio, writer Taj Joyo, Sindhi Adabi Sangat's Ahmed Solangi, Sindh University Teachers Association leader Dr Arfana Mallah, Khanabadosh Writers Cafe's Amar Sindhu and many other notable writers, educationists, journalists and lawyers also participated in the event.

Dr Magsi said the people who have been subjected to enforced disappearances have not committed any crimes for which the people calling for their release may feel repentant. "Every citizen of Pakistan has the right to their views and expressions." Magsi said, adding that in the past, political workers were put in jails in fake cases and now that old practice has been replaced with disappearances.

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JSM's Riaz said the state cannot stifle the voice of people who are demanding their due rights. "Pakistan consists of many sub-national groups ... we can't accept the domination of Punjab."

Former Sindh advocate-general Muhammad Yousuf Laghari said the lawyers will not only support protests for missing persons, but also extend legal help to their families. He appealed to Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar to take notice of Sindh's missing persons issue.

The Youth Action Committee for the missing persons has been observing a hunger strike outside the Hyderabad Press Club since Thursday. The committee's organiser, Ham Ali Chandio, alleged that the families of missing persons were being deprived of their right to hold peaceful protests.

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