Statement issued by the International Human Rights Council
In recent months there has been a resurgence of enforced disappearances throughout Sindh. Since February 2017, more than 160 people have gone missing and their whereabouts remain unknown. Since 2010 over 1200 cases of missing persons in Sindh province have been reported.
During 2012-2014, a wave of disappearances targeted numerous Sindhi young men, almost all of whom were political and human rights activists and journalists. Almost all of the eyewitnesses to these disappearances have indicated that the perpetrators seem to be official security personnel – ISI, MI, Rangers, and police.
As is the norm the authorities are not ready to register cases against the Law Enforcement Agency officials. Many of these cases have been registered at the High Court, but the judiciary remains reluctant to take any meaningful action. Those who raise their voices for the release of missing persons are themselves threatened with dire consequences. An atmosphere of utmost fear has been instigated by the security agencies.
In October and November, 2017 dozens of Sindhi and Baloch defenders were subjected to enforced disappearances by Pakistani security forces. Some returned to their homes days later, but others remained missing at the end of the year.
According to ANI, a mass movement has gripped Pakistan’s Sindh province as demand for early release of missing persons has intensified.
Various political organisations and family members of the victims are holding hunger strike camps at various places including Karachi, Kotri, Mehrabpur, Moro, Badin, Bathoro and Pano Aqil demanding safe release of missing persons.
In an estimate, over 4,000 people have gone missing from Sindh province since 2011.
Accusing the security forces for the enforced disappearances, the family members of the victims are protesting in Sindh by holding the pictures of the dear ones. The prominent of those missing are Aaqib Chandio, Kaleem Tunio and Khadim Hussain Areejo.
The family members have asked the government to bring them in courts and prove their crime.
Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh’s Convenor Soarath Lohar said at a hunger strike camp in Amarkot, “Now, we are going to other phase of struggle after Eid, which will be more effective and strengthened. We say it’s better for security agencies that all abducted nationalist workers must be released before Eid.”
In recent months, there has been a resurgence of enforced disappearances throughout Sindh. As mentioned above, since February 2017, more than 160 people have gone missing and their whereabouts remain unknown.
According to BBC, a 30-year-old Naeem Haider is one of 140 Pakistani Shias to have “disappeared” over the past two years, according to community activists. Their families believe they were taken into custody by the intelligence services. Mr. Haider was taken on the night of 16 November 2016 and has not been seen since. Despite the CCTV video evidence both the police and intelligence services have denied in court that he is in their custody. Mr Haider’s family say he had returned to the port city from pilgrimage in Karbala, Iraq, with his pregnant wife just two days before he was detained.
Victimization of political activists has continued as the law enforcement agencies have intensified the cracked down against Sindhi nationalist groups, In April 2017 alone 6 Sindhi activists were picked up. These included Mr. Khadim Arijo, a government officer, Hidayatullah Lohar, a school headmaster and four political activists went missing after their arrest by police and plain clothed persons. The Jeay Sindh Muttahida Muhaz (JSMM) HR Committee has compiled a list of 31 noted cases of enforced disappearances of Sindhi political activists till May 20, 2018.
According to the Commission on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (CoIED), in the past two years, the commission also received 368 cases from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, most of which belonged to Sindh.
Deedar Ali Shabrani, a writer, poet and journalist working with Dharti TV, has not been seen or heard from since he was taken from his home on 16 December 2017, raising fears that he may have been subject to an enforced disappearance. Deedar Ali Shabrani is known to have been critical of the Pakistan government’s policies toward his native province and for highlighting concerns of enforced disappearances in Sindh province.
On April 17, 2017 Mr. Hidayatullah Lohar, son of Muhmmad Hashim Lohar, headmaster of a government primary school in Golo Ganwans village, Naseerabad, Qambar shahdadkot district, Sindh province, was picked up by plain clothed officials of LEA. Mr. Lohar’s family went to Naseerabad police station, Qamber, to register a case of his disappearance but the police refused to provide any information. Furthermore, the station house officer (SHO), Sub Inspector Abdul Waheed, refused to file an FIR. When family members insisted to file a missing report, the SHO shouted at them and behaved in a rude manner. He also told them that whether they go to high court or any court, they would not find any redress because of the involvement of powerful forces. The family filed a petition in the High Court, Hyderabad Bench; but to date no case has been file let alone investigated.
Recently Mr. Lohar’s daughter has been raising the issue of her father’s year long disappearances. Soorath Lohar has been holding hunger camps and distributing leaflets demanding immediate release of her father and other disappeared Sindhis
Similarly, another daughter Sindhia Abbasi, is desperately in search of her father Inam Abbasi, who has been missing for more than a year and a half. Sindhia’s father was abducted in front of her for no reason from Safura Chowrangi, Karachi. Her father was an editor of a Sindhi language magazine called Nao Niyapo, which published works of progressive Sindhi writers, poets and activists.
The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has also reported to have more than 700 pending cases from Pakistan only.
Pakistan has thus far failed to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Amnesty International has recently expressed its concern that the government did not accept recommendations to bring the perpetrators of such threats, attacks and abductions to justice.
The ICHRC-HK urges Pakistan’s authorities to publicly condemn enforced disappearances, recognize enforced disappearances as a distinct and autonomous offence, and call for an end to this cruel and inhumane practice. Those found guilty should be punished with penalties that are commensurate with the gravity of the heinous crime.
Lacking domestic legislation with regards to disappearances is disastrous to the rule of law and justice in the country. Without adequate legal restraint, the impunity to the law enforcement agencies can’t be checked, neither can they be held accountable for exceeding their authority. The legal struggle to protect citizens in Pakistan against enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings and the effort to ensure that military and government officials are subject to legal restraint must be fought by all concerned citizens.