KHUZDAR: Tutak is an area of harsh contrasts. This observation is borne out by the beautiful landscape that surrounds Tutak — and the open graves scattered across it.
A 55-kilometre drive out of Khuzdar, the area is surrounded by rugged mountains, apart from a few houses and lanes at the beginning. But as one moves forward, the mud houses are left behind and Tutak comes into view. It is a desolate area. There is not a single person or animal around.
Appointed by the Supreme Court to head a judicial tribunal earlier this month, Balochistan High Court judge Noor Mohammad Maskanzai was given a tour of the area. With Khuzdar Deputy Commissioner Abdul Waheed Shah in tow, the members of the tribunal quietly walked around, mostly picking up and ‘investigating’ things themselves — without gloves.
Flown in especially from Quetta for the purpose, the investigating team was under-equipped without pen or paper, or a digital camera. As the team approached the graves, an unbearable stench filled the air. A red handkerchief was lying near one grave, while a few bones were found in another. The team could not determine whether they belonged to a human or an animal. The men would stop at each grave and look at the judge, expecting him to say something, but he would quietly move to the next.
Around 10 graves were visited by the tribunal, each one appearing to be different from the other; some had been dug 10 feet deep, and others around seven. The DC pointed out: “The land around this place is barren and rough. But the one around the graves is soft and wet. The ground feels different near the graves. It is easy for a local to understand this. It is evident anyway.”
What appeared in every grave were the remnants of limestone. “It is one of the quickest ways to cause a body to decompose,” DC Shah explained while others looked on.
Between Jan 17 and 18, around 13 bodies were recovered from Tutak. As a debate ensued about the identity of those in the graves, there were statements claiming that the bodies belonged to some of those who had mysteriously gone missing in Balochistan.Two bodies were initially identified by the authorities as Qadir Buksh and Naseer Ahmed. They went missing in September from Awaran, said a senior member of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons. Speaking to Dawn over the phone, Nasrullah Baloch said: “Qadir Buksh was picked up a few days before the earthquake in Awaran, while Naseer Ahmed was picked up a few days after. Their families recognised them by what was left of their clothes and the ID card found in the pocket of one of them.”
The last grave that the team visited was wide and appeared bumpy. The DC was asked whether there might be more graves in the area. “I don’t think we’ll find anything else. This is what there is to this place,” he said shortly.
A few feet away from the graves was what appeared to have been a training camp. Some 400 spent bullets were recovered from the area in front of us, and as many were collected from under the surrounding stones. The bullets belonged to 9mm pistols and submachine guns, the officials said. There were also casings of a 7mm sniper rifle.
A few cardboard shooting targets were also recovered. ‘Shia Kafir’ was written on one piece of cardboard with a black marker. A militant organisation’s name was written on top of another. A few steps ahead, a packet of instant noodles lay stuck under a stone. A mile ahead from the shooting targets stood a mud house without a ceiling and surrounded by polythene hanging from the sides. A few steps on the right from the abandoned house was a small square area that had been used as a toilet, according to a Frontier Corps man. A gutter flowed beside it.
Back at the sessions court in Khuzdar, as tea was being served, an official wanting to know what the team found at the site, innocently asked whether we were able to see “a well behind the mountain we visited”. “There are more bodies there,” the official said as he waited for a response.