QUETTA: Sammi Deen Baloch, the daughter of Dr Deen Muhammad who has been missing since mid-2009, isn’t too optimistic about Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s assurance that he will raise the missing persons’ issue with the relevant quarters.

“This is nothing new,” she tells Dawn.

Dr Deen Muhammad went missing from Ornach in Khuzdar district on June 28, 2009, while he was on a night duty at a hospital. Since then, his whereabouts are unknown.

Enforced disappearances, which began several years ago in Balochistan and erstwhile Fata on the pretext of fighting terrorists and insurgents, have extended to major urban centres, including Islamabad, KP and Sindh over the years.

Following persistent campaigning by family members of these missing people and human rights groups, the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was established in March 2011, but that too managed to trace only a handful of those missing.

Some rights activists estimate there still remain over 2,000 unresolved cases with the commission. In many cases, rights groups have blamed the security agencies for taking away people over suspicion of their involvement in militant activities — a charge repeatedly denied by the authorities.

Since her father’s disappearance deprived her of a childhood, Sammi has grown up raising her voice for missing persons for 13 years.

“Ever since the PPP came to power in 2008, all prime ministers have talked about the missing persons,” she tells Dawn over the phone in a coarse voice. “All of them have vowed to address the issue. But there has been no progress to this day.”

“Like Shehbaz Sharif, other prime ministers, including Imran Khan, assured us that the issue of Baloch missing persons is their top priority, but we have yet to see the results,” she says.

According to her, the civilian leadership changes, but its rhetoric remains the same. “When they are not in government, they vociferate over the issue and vow to address it,” she said. “After coming to power, they either forget it or just pay lip service.”

She cites the example of PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz. According to Sammi, Ms Nawaz herself was a victim during the Imran government, as she and her father were jailed and separated from each other, “which is why she assured us that her government will resolve the key issue of missing persons. Now, it is their government. They should release the missing persons”.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2022

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