THERE appears to be no end to the tales of woe and misery emerging from Balochistan. While the province’s misfortunes are well documented, the grim discovery of the bodies of a woman and two young boys from a well in the Barkhan area only confirms that the law of the jungle reigns supreme in the hapless province.
According to the victim’s husband Khan Muhammad Marri, his wife Granaz and his two sons, including a minor, were allegedly kept in the private jail of provincial minister Abdul Rehman Khetran for the last four years. Police say the three bodies had gunshot wounds in the head and showed signs of torture. As per Mr Marri, five more of his children, including a minor daughter, remain illegally confined.
It remains unclear why the victims had been kept in the private jail, while in a video doing the rounds on social media the woman, holding a copy of the Holy Quran, begs the state and society to save their lives.
Mr Khetran, who was arrested yesterday, denied culpability, saying it is a ‘conspiracy’ against him, while Marri tribesmen remain camped out in Quetta’s Red Zone with the victims’ coffins, demanding justice. An FIR has been registered against ‘unknown’ suspects.
One wonders how such a gruesome state of affairs can exist in a nation which claims to be ruled by the law. In large swathes of Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, the law has no meaning. This is not the first time Abdul Rehman Khetran has been accused of running a private jail.
Such an illegal facility was discovered in 2014 when law enforcers raided his property in Barkhan after he reportedly tortured police officers. Unfortunately, such grotesque behaviour is the norm, and not an exception, especially in places where the feudal mindset is entrenched. But in a state that supposedly adheres to the constitutional order, there can be no place for private jails.
The protesters in Quetta want action against Mr Khetran, and have also called upon the prime minister to visit them. This inhuman crime must be thoroughly probed and the guilty brought to justice, without considering their connections and clout.
Moreover, the remaining prisoners must be freed and the menace of illegal jails ended throughout Pakistan. Our claims of being a civilised society will be meaningless if the killers of Granaz’s children are not brought to justice.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2023
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