Human rights minister backs PM Kakar’s statement on 50 missing persons from Balochistan

Published October 14, 2023
Caretaker Human Rights Minister Khalil George speaks during an interview on Dawn News’ programme ‘Doosra Rukh’, which was aired on Oct 13. — Screengrab from video provided by author
Caretaker Human Rights Minister Khalil George speaks during an interview on Dawn News’ programme ‘Doosra Rukh’, which was aired on Oct 13. — Screengrab from video provided by author

Caretaker Human Rights Minister Khalil George has backed interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar’s claim that around 50 people have been forcibly disappeared in Balochistan.

In an interview on Dawn News’ programme ‘Doosra Rukh’, when asked if he thought that the number of missing persons was “not as many as reported” but 50 as stated by PM Kakar, George replied: “My opinion cannot be different from the prime minister’s because we are part of the cabinet and the prime minister would have more knowledge on this than me.”

“What he said would definitely be the case,” he added.

Earlier this month, in an interview with BBC News, the interim premier had claimed that according to a UN sub-committee’s estimates, around 50 people have been forcibly disappeared in Balochistan.

When asked if he had data regarding the number of missing persons across the country, George recalled that a commission had been formed to look into the matter and that a “party leader” from Balochistan was also part of it.

The Parliamentary Commission on Missing Persons was established by the Balochistan government in December last year to review each case of missing persons and play a role in their recovery.

George went on to state that he did not have a “correct figure” but the matter was being looked into, noting that he hailed from Balochistan and the matter was a “sensitive” one.

The minister added that the issue had been raised for a long time — prior to when he assumed his role in the ministry.

“So, on this… I have not sought a briefing as such to this extent that we are able to provide you with great detail on this,” he said.

Answering whether he was satisfied with the commission’s performance, George said it had only been two months since his appointment and did not know what the commission had achieved yet.

“We have not received any such report since I have assumed the office. If there was any before I came, I do not know about it.”

When inquired whether he thought he should have data on the “sensitive matter”, he said, “The data must have been present before me [assuming the role] but no such report has been released before this during my time in office.”

The human rights minister also responded to a query about journalist Mudassir Naru, who went missing in 2020 while on a trip to the northern areas and regarding whom a case is pending before the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

George said he did not know about Naaru’s whereabouts and then went on to emphasise that the caretaker government’s “duty is to oversee the [general] elections”.

“We want that the democratic governments formed… their ministers come. Actually, they are the ones who can legislate on this. Our authority is to conduct elections and supervise them.”

A day ago, the Peshawar High Court directed the federal and provincial governments to file replies in all the cases of “missing persons” and to inform the court as to who among them was in the custody of any of the law enforcement agencies.

Earlier this month, IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq had said the court felt “embarrassed” that the issue had been lingering for several years.

The division bench comprising Justice Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb had noted that the cases of enforced disappearances were stigmatising the image of Pakistan and bringing the country into disrepute.

The IHC sought the assistance of the attorney general for Pakistan to resolve the long-standing issue, suggesting that he may hold a meeting with the caretaker prime minister on the issue.

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