By Sanchita Bhattacharya*
On October 1, 2020, a bench of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan, including the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed, while hearing a petition at its Quetta registry seeking recovery of missing persons in Balochistan, categorically rejected the inquiry report submitted by the Police. The SC bench ordered that the person who prepared the inquiry report must be removed from service and sent back home. “Is this a report? Person who prepared [this] must be fired from service,” the CJP remarked.
The CJP observed, further, “Police officials do not know how to investigate cases. Missing persons’ cases were reported between 2017 and 2018 while the police performance in their recovery has been zero.”
The report was submitted to the bench by Senior Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch (Investigation), Muhammad Akbar Raisani. The Court remarked, “You are a PSP [Police Service of Pakistan] officer but you do not know how to investigate.”
The hearing of the case was adjourned for four weeks, with direction for the Balochistan Inspector General of Police Mohsin Abbas Butt to appear through video link in the next hearing to be held at the Supreme Court in Islamabad.
During the hearing, the Court also expressed concern over the plying of smuggled vehicles on roads, aerial firing and other illegal acts committed daily in Balochistan, and ordered the authorities concerned to take action in this regard.
On September 20, 2020, Mama Qadeer Baloch, the vice-chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) – a group which pursues and monitors cases of enforced disappearances – asserted that state-backed death squads had spilled the blood of the Baloch in several areas of Balochistan.
On October 3, two dead bodies were recovered in separate incidents from Panjgur District and Lasbela District of Balochistan. The body of a man identified as Muhammad Niaz was found in the Kahen-Zangi area of Panjgur. The dead body of a 56-year-old man, Sabir, was discovered close to a hill near the Sakran Attock Cement Factory in Hub city.
On September 10, the mutilated dead body of Hafizullah Mohammad Hassani, who had been missing for four years, was found at Pul-Choto in Dalbandain area of Chagai District in Balochistan. Hassani was a resident of Killi Qasim and a farmer by profession. He was forcibly disappeared on August 30, 2016. According to locals, the body was discovered due to the recent rains.
Fiveincidents were reported in August 2020:
August 28: The bullet riddled body of a man, identified as Ashraf Dadain (50), resident of Buleda, was discovered from the mountains of the Kulbar area in Kech District, Balochistan. According to the locals, the man was abducted by unidentified armed persons a few days earlier.
August 11: A missing person’s body was recovered from the Buleda area of Kech District in Balochistan. Rahim,son of Dad Baksh, was abducted along with two others about a week earlier, allegedly during a raid by the Security Forces in the Kuchag area of Buleda. The other abductees are still missing.
August 6: The body of a man was recovered from the Killi Gishkori area of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan.
August 6: The body of an unidentified man was recovered from the Labour Colony area of Hub town in Lasbela District.
August 6: The body of man, identified as Hussain-ul-Deen, was recovered from Sibi District.
According to Pakistan’s Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances data, as on August 31, 2020, atleast 509 cases cases of alleged Enforced Disappearances have been registered from Balochistan since March 13, 2011, when the Commission was formed.
However, the VBMP stated in 2018 that, between 2002 and September 2018, at least 6,428 persons have gone missing in the Balochistan Province.
Indeed, on June 17, 2020, the Balochistan National Party (BNP) quit the Imran Khan-led Federal Government saying it was upset over unfulfilled promises of the Government to address Baloch grievances, including the worsening issue of the missing people. As reported on July 20, 2020, when he led the BNP into an alliance with Khan’s coalition about two years ago, Akhtar Mengal gave a list of 5,128 missing people. Since then, Mengal claimed, another 1,800 were reported to have disappeared.
Shockingly, Pakistan is now practising the method of enforced disappearance on the Baloch Diaspora abroad as well. On March 2, 2020, a Baloch journalist and activist Sajid Hussain was ‘disappeared’ from Sweden. His body was later found in a river in Uppsala on May 1, 2020. Earlier, another Baloch social activist, Rashid Hussain, was arrested and ‘disappeared’ from Sharjah, by UAE secret agencies on December 26, 2018. Rashid had been living and working in UAE for several years. After six months Rashid Hussain was illegally deported and handed over to Pakistani authorities by UAE.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ‘kill and dump’ policy in the Province continues. Mutilated dead bodies, in different stages of decomposition and beyond recognition, dotting the roads of Balochistan are a common occurrence. These are part of the nefarious ‘kill and dump’ policy of the Pakistani state.
According to a March 2019 report, mass graves were found in Balochistan for the first time in 2014 in the Turbat District. Since then, every year, the people of the region have discovered similar graves in different areas. In each case the discovery follows the same pattern – the Army and intelligence agencies cordon off the area, keeping people away. Nobody really knows how many bodies are buried there or who they were. The report further states that, according to the Federal Ministry of Human Rights, since the year 2011, nearly 1,000 dead bodies have been found, mostly in the areas of Quetta, Kalat, Khuzdar, and Makran.
As reported on March 15, 2020, acknowledging the grievous situation, Nigel Adams, the British Minister of State Affairs at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, noted,
We are aware of reports of mass graves in Khuzdar, Turbat and Dera Bugti in Balochistan. These would be of deep concern to the British government… The British government regularly raises its concerns about human rights at the highest levels of the Government of Pakistan.
Enforced disappearances and recoveries of dead bodies have become rampant in Balochistan. Though the Supreme Court’s latest observations highlight the existing lawlessness, it is highly improbable that Rawalpindi will make any changes in its practice of using unbridled force against Baloch nationals.
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management