Maryam urges govt, agencies to allay grievances of missing persons' families

Published February 17, 2021
Maryam Nawaz speaks to the media at D-Chowk in Islamabad where families of protesters are demonstrating over the issue of missing persons in Balochistan. - DawnNewsTV
Maryam Nawaz speaks to the media at D-Chowk in Islamabad where families of protesters are demonstrating over the issue of missing persons in Balochistan. - DawnNewsTV

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz on Wednesday said that the government should "at least inform" the families of missing persons if their relatives are alive or dead.

She was speaking to the media at Islamabad's D-Chowk where she came to visit protesters who are demonstrating over the issue of missing persons in Balochistan.

She urged the army chief and the head of ISI to resolve the issues of the protesters.

"I want to say this to the army chief and DG ISI as well: They are citizens of your country, they are your daughters, your mothers," Maryam said. "Come talk to them. Resolve the issues that can be solved. Produce the people who are alive in courts and those who are not [alive] at least tell them (the families) that they are not alive."

She also bashed the government for not reaching out to the protesters, saying that it is the duty of the state to take care of its citizens.

"If you cannot recover their loved ones, at least you can tell them about those who are in torture cells," she said. "They won't do anything, they will just cry and fall silent but at least the agony that they experience every day will end.

"I want to say this to Imran Khan as well that Prime Minister House is not that far from here, it's hardly five minutes away. These girls told me that they have been sitting out here for a week. You don't have to answer the agencies, you have to answer God. This 22 million population is your responsibility.

"If you can't do anything for them, you have no control, at least you can pat their heads. Or do you only have things like 'I won't be blackmailed by dead bodies' to say?"

Maryam also condemned statements given by the federal ministers Sheikh Rashid and Fawad Chaudhry, without naming either of them.

Rashid had drawn ire earlier this week, when he said that the capital police had "fired a little tear gas" on protesting government employees in order to "test the shells".

Last week, Islamabad police had fired over a 1,000 tear gas shells at the protesters to disperse them. The protesters, who were government employees, were demanding an increase in their salaries in accordance with the prevailing inflation.

While speaking to the media today, Maryam said that a federal minister had compared the law and order situation of Balochistan and Punjab: "The oppressed do not have a province. Sindhi, Punjabi, even if someone is from KPK or Balochistan, an oppressed person is oppressed [despite their province]. For God's sake don't sprinkle salt on their wounds. At least tell your ministers not to worsen their grief and you should come and put your hand on their heads."

While responding to a question regarding the commission constituted to address the issue of missing persons, Maryam said that such bodies are "eyewash". She said that even if the persons, who are missing, have committed crimes, their families should be told.

When asked why the PML-N government did not take any step to resolve the matter during its tenure, Maryam said: "All I can do right now is express solidarity [...] I can let them know that they are from Balochistan but they are not alone."

The PML-N vice president added that even if someone is suspected of a crime "there is a procedure" to deal with them.

"It's not right to abduct them in the middle of the night and not tell their families of their whereabouts for 10 years."

In response to another question about the PML-N government's response to the issue, Maryam admitted that she "doesn't know about these matters".

"I do understand, because I have seen from afar, that there are hurdles but there is no bigger compulsion than duty [...] If there is a hurdle, talk to them. If you can't do that, then [PMO] is five minutes away, come and put your hand on their heads. If you can't come, send one of your ministers and if you can't even do that then at least don't issue inhumane statements."

She pointed out that courts were functional in the country and anyone suspected of being involved in a crime can be produced before them.

Matter raised in cabinet meeting

Addressing a press conference later in the day, Minister for Information Shibli Faraz said that the matter was raised in today's cabinet meeting by Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari.

"Legislation has been done and [sent to the] law ministry. The prime minister said that he himself has gone to such protests and expressed solidarity.

"The prime minister told us his stance that there was terrorism in the past so it was a bit understandable but it cannot be understood now."

Faraz said that the relatives of missing persons had only one demand which was to know whether their loved one was alive or dead.

"Why should a law not be made that after three months or six months or nine months [...] there should be a time frame [after which the families would need to be informed]?"

The premier gave clear instructions that the bill should be activated and a mechanism should be created for it, the minister said.

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