ISLAMABAD: The chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, retired Justice Javed Iqbal, told a Senate standing committee on Monday that only 96 people are missing in Balochistan and the matter has been politicised.

The claim surprised the Senate Standing Committee on Interior, and two members from Balochistan – Mir Israrullah Khan Zehri and Dr Jehanzeb Jamadini – rejected Mr Iqbal’s statements.

Both senators said a large number of people have disappeared in Balochistan, and are killed and their bodies discarded by agencies.

“A few years ago, some people marched from Quetta to Islamabad and claimed almost 17,000 people from Balochistan were missing but they never gave me the list,” Mr Iqbal said.

Former interior minister claims Indian officials disguised as FC, army personnel are involved in killing Baloch people

“An NGO from Balochistan claimed 3,500 people were missing but it also failed to provide a list. A former chief minister even said 900 Baloch people were missing but he never provided me [with the] list.”

“Even of those 96 people, we are not aware of how many have travelled to Geneva, Afghanistan or other countries – so an exaggerated number of missing persons is presented.”

Senator Jamaldini from the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) said those who hide facts are not being just with the state and the nation.

“Every day, newspapers are filled with news about disappeared persons, and two to six bodies are recovered in Balochistan every day. Seven people from my family and 87 from my party have been killed. I have a list of over 1,800 missing persons,” he said. “People have stopped registering FIRs because the next day, the complaints also disappear.”

Senator Zehri from the Balochistan National Party-Awami (BNP-A) said in Balochistan even those who chant slogans are killed.

“My death warrant will be issued if I start speaking the truth. People are even declared terrorists and killed if they don’t vote for some parties or candidates,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, the committee chairman, former interior minister Rehman Malik, accused Indian intelligence officials of impersonating Frontier Corps and armed forces personnel and being involved in killing Baloch people, saying Indian intelligence agencies are active in the province.

At the start of the meeting Mr Iqbal, who was invited to give a detailed briefing on the missing persons issue, claimed that the situation in Pakistan was not very bad and blamed NGOs for playing a negative role in 2012 that caused a United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearances to look into the matter.

He said the UN working group visited Pakistan, and its recommendations were implemented “to some extent”. Mr Iqbal also said that the commission of inquiry continued its work and the number of reported enforced disappearance cases rose from 136 to 3,692 due to increasing confidence in the commission.

“We observed that the police do not register [missing persons] cases, so we ensured that an FIR is registered on every application,” he said.

“At the time some incidents were even reported in Islamabad, in which people entered houses, so we involved retired Capt Mohammad Ilyas from the Islamabad police after which the situation improved.”

Turning to the provinces, Mr Iqbal said there are 200 pending cases in Sindh but the government there was uncooperative.

He said there were cases where people disappeared just two months after their weddings and had remained missing for the last six years, but the Sindh chief secretary never bothered to meet with the commission.

He said there are 223 missing persons cases in Punjab but the situation in southern Punjab is deteriorating. “There are some people who spent 18 months in the custody of intelligence agencies, during which they were only asked for names and addresses and then they were allowed to go home,” he said.

Mr Iqbal said the Punjab home secretary also did not bother to meet with the commission, and instead sent officials who were not empowered to make any decisions.

There are 654 pending cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including terrorist cases. Mr Iqbal said that because of frequent transfers in the KP police force, it becomes difficult to deal with the police.

Mr Iqbal added that 53 people are missing in Fata, 11 in Azad Kashmir and four in Gilgit-Baltistan.

He also said that the UN sent a list of 368 missing persons – most of whom belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

He said 309 people were recovered with the cooperation of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan because they were suspects in terrorism cases.

He said despite a lack of funding and cooperation on the part of the provinces, the commission has decided 2,416 cases of enforced disappearances in the last five years, and is hearing another 1,276 cases.

Senator Chaudhry Tanvir also asked for information on the missing husband of activist Amina Masood Janjua, and was told that if he wants a briefing it could be given in an in camera meeting.

Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2016