While the search for Balochistan’s missing persons continues, their cases are complicated by the discrepancies between the records of those involved.
The home department, for instance, said in a recent report that 71 people are missing in the province, while human rights organisations estimate that the figure is closer to 8,000. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VFBMP) advocacy group insists that more than 19,000 Baloch political activists and sympathisers have been subjected to enforced disappearances over the last 13 years. For his part, Akbar Durrani, the provincial home secretary, has reiterated the government’s resolve to finding the missing persons. Monthly reports are submitted to the Supreme Court, according to him.
VFBMP vice president Mama Qadir says his organisation has submitted a detailed report to the United Nations with evidence regarding missing persons. “There are more than 19,000 people who were subjected to enforced disappearance in Balochistan and none of them have been recovered yet,” he told The Express Tribune. “The government has done nothing, except to release those who were detained for a brief period.”
The home department has stated that 135 cases of missing persons have been registered in the province and the provincial government has received the details of 194 people claimed to be missing. “Human rights organisations have claimed that there are 8,000 people missing and they hold secret agencies responsible for these enforced disappearances,” a routine departmental report stated. “The rights groups were asked to submit evidence in court but they provided only 989 names.”
The department has set up a special cell on the directives of the interior ministry and the cell has published these 989 names in various newspapers, requesting the relatives of these missing persons to submit further details.
Only 194 applicants came forward with additional data. “There is a committee looking into the cases and it is doing its job,” Home Secretary Akbar Durrani insisted, adding that those agencies blamed for the disappearances have also been represented in the committee. “The special cell is set up to collect information. The cases are also with the Supreme Court,” he said.
A special task force was also set up by the interior ministry last year, mandated to formulate a national policy on the missing people, monitor the progress and coordinate efforts of all the stakeholders working on the issue.
The force included officers from the agencies, home secretaries of the four provinces, the additional attorney general, a member of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, additional inspectors-general of special branches of the four provinces and additional chief secretaries. The task force has met 31 times since July 2013.
The interior ministry also formed three special commissions headed by DIG Police Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sharif Werak, Justice Retired Fazalur Rehman and Justice retired Javed Iqbal and Iqbal continues to head a commission regarding the missing persons’ cases. The government claims that 80 missing persons of 194 were recovered and the commission dismissed 43 cases after declaring that these cases do not fulfill the criteria of ‘missing persons’. The commission is currently probing 71 cases.
The Home Department says 135 cases are currently registered, 64 of which are with the Supreme Court.
As many as 612 dead bodies have been recovered from across Balochistan from 2010-2013, according to the Home Department. 373 of these cases were identified as Baloch, 95 Pashtun, 71 un-identifiable and 73 belonging to women, children, members of the Hazara community, those of Punjabi ethnicity and Afghan nationals. All these bodies were found dumped in isolated spaces in Quetta, Khuzdar, Kalat, Mekran, Naseerabad, Sibi and Zhob. The VFBMP contests this information, saying the number of recovered bodies is higher than that declared by the provincial government. “We have evidence that more than 2,000 people were killed in illegal detention cells and their bodies dumped in places across Balochistan,” says Mama Qadir.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2014.