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Families of ‘missing persons’ share their tales of woe

Updated September 13, 2017

KARACHI: “My three children constantly talk about revenge from the people who took away their father,” said Nausheen Kamal whose husband, Shariq Kamal, has been missing for three years now. She remembers the exact day, March 3, 2015, when he was taken away. “They used to be happy children sharing their school stories with me. Now they look for reasons to stay away from school,” the mother added.

Shaista, another mother, said her husband, Shahzad Khan, was taken away on Oct 28, 2015. “I have three school-going daughters, too, and with their father gone making two ends meet is a big challenge,” she said.

Ms Riasatullah said that her husband was picked up on Nov 18, 2015. “I was expecting my second child then. My baby son has not seen his father,” she said as her older, seven-year-old son stood beside her, holding his father’s framed photograph.

Meanwhile, Sagheerunisa Begum, her eyes brimming, listened to their stories. “My son Furqan was not married but I miss him dearly,” she said, adding that he had been gone since May 6, 2015. “We have done everything within our means to have him recovered, including filing a petition in court but to no avail.”

‘There can be countless other issues behind the disappearances of people’

The meeting was called on Tuesday by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) to share the situation of Sindh regarding enforced disappearances and missing persons with the media. “Enforced disappearances are a violation of human rights,” said NCHR chairman retired Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan. “And we being a watchdog organisation can question the law enforcement agencies said to be involved in the disappearances,” he added.

“So when we sent a notice to the ministry of interior about it all, we were informed that they didn’t have these missing people though they did mention that Frontier Corps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may know something about their whereabouts and asked us to give them some time to find out and revert,” Justice Chowhan said.

“It was a positive thing as there was not a complete denial after all. And everyone’s hopes were up suddenly. But now we have received this second letter from them saying that they also don’t have any information about these missing persons,” he said. “At this we have told them that their answer is vague and, therefore, unacceptable to us.”

Anis Haroon, a member of the Sindh NCHR, meanwhile, also added that they were having a difficult time in believing the government when they say one thing one day and something else another day.

Justice Chowhan said that there should be an internal redressal system to take up this issue. “We ask the prime minister and interior minister for an internal redressal system and a joint investigative team for this,” he said.

“There can be countless other issues behind the disappearances of people such as personal vendetta or maybe the work of a foreign enemy. The government should not get maligned unnecessarily especially when it might not have anything to do with this. There is so much propaganda about Pakistan and our law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Forced conversions

Another issue which Justice Chowhan wanted to talk about when speaking of propaganda against Pakistan was the issue of forced conversions. “We see too much of this happening in Tharparkar and among the Kalash. There girls are being exploited. Things are bad and it is very sad to see Jinnah’s pledge to the minorities here being betrayed,” he said.

“In Tharparkar, there are so many madressahs, which openly spread hate speech. The ministry of religious affairs needs to filter these,” he said.

The third issue that he was also concerned about was the feared environmental disaster in the shape of the Gorano reservoir in Tharparkar. “I hear that the most fertile land in Islamkot will come under this [reservoir],” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017