At least 50 families of missing persons staged a sit-in on Thursday outside the Commissioner’s Office in Quetta, demanding their relatives’ safe and immediate recovery.
The protesters criticised the Supreme Court for not paying any heed to their problems and chanted slogans against the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the federal interior minister. According to them, they (the chief justice and the interior minister) were trying to sidetrack a humanitarian issue.
The procession started from Quetta Press Club and planned on heading towards the Governor House. However, heavy contingents of the police stopped them near the main intersection on the Anscomb Road.
Despite several warnings to call off the protest, protesters, who included women, children and old men, continued the sit-in.
“We have evidence, documents and data of about 1,300 missing persons and wanted to produce it before the governor of Balochistan to prove that Rehman Malik has been lying and misleading the public since the very first day by saying that there are merely 40 persons missing,” said Nasurallah Baloch, the Chairman of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VFBMP) – an organisation striving for the recovery of missing persons.
Accusing the Supreme Court chief justice of “intentionally trying to save criminal elements responsible for kidnapping and killing missing persons”, he said: “We do not expect much from the government or its institutions since they themselves are involved in illegal detentions and extra-judicial killings.”
Protestors carried photographs of their loved ones, with information about when and where they had been “picked up”.
“My brother, Saeedur Rehman, was whisked away by security personnel on July 7, 2008. I just wish authorities would produce him before a court,” a woman said while addressing the sit-in.
The sister of Gohar Baloch, who went missing on February 15 this year, also accused government functionaries of “enforced disappearances”.
“Bodies are being dumped almost on a daily basis. I fear, one day I will receive my brother’s mutilated body,” she said.
According to civil society organisations, as many as 178 bodies of missing persons have so far been found dumped in across Balochistan and all victims had affiliations with nationalist parties or student organisations.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2011.