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ISLAMABAD: It was a sit-in by about 50 distressed people, but their cause was so gripping that the media personnel who came to cover the event in the vast square in front of the parliament building Wednesday evening outnumbered them.

Maybe because a tragedy had added poignancy to the sit-in staged by two dozen families of forcibly disappeared persons.

Newspapers of the same morning carried the report that a mother who was fortunate to meet her two sons when they were brought to the Supreme Court on Monday - along with five others who were abducted after being acquitted of terror charges and released - died overnight.

But as tragedies, sometimes, give rise to firmer resolve to fight on against the elements that cause them, the protesters also resolved to continue their struggle.

“My brother-in-law Azhar Iqbal, a trader, was arrested from his house in Karachi during a military-police operation on July 7, 2011. A court order only made the police to register FIR but not locate him till this day,” said Mohammad Asjad who had come to Islamabad to participate in the sit-in.

A father from Faisalabad, Abdul Shakoor, was totally distraught.

“Police raided our house on March 8, 2011 and took away my son Hafiz Abdul Rehman, assuring he would return. A month later he just disappeared,” he told Dawn.

Young Rehman was picked up the day after his matriculation examinations began, “but the police deny they ever arrested him”. Abdullah, also from Faisalabad, was there looking for his uncle, a teacher. “Uncle Abdul Qayum was arrested on September 26, 2010.

Faisalabad police registered FIR on the order of a court but have not recovered him.”

Seven-year-old Emana Batool from Karachi was crying for her father. The year began for her and the family with the father disappearing on 1st January 2012 from Orangi, a Karachi locality.

“I don’t know where he is and how he is but I really miss him,” said Batool with tears rolling down her cheeks.

They were just four people but spoke of the void that all the families find in their hearts for their missing near and dear ones.

They received support and encouragement in their struggle from the representatives of the civil society.

Gen (r) Hameed Gul, who once headed ISI, told the crowd that democracy had failed the Pakistani people. Their rulers, past and present, would whimper before American diktat and release Raymond Davis and hand over Aimal Kansi but be cruel to their own people.

“Time has come to raise voice against injustice and protect our rights,” he said.

Former parliamentarian Marvi Memon apologised for being part of a military dictatorship and promised not to do that ever again and stand by the side of law. “Today the jungle law is ruling the country,” she said.

Chairperson Defense of Human Rights, Aamna Masood Janjua, grieved that prominent lawyers fight cases of NRO and Memogate free but would not take cases of missing persons even for “reasonable fee”.

She announced that the families of missing persons were united to carry on their struggle until they were recovered and released.

Civil activist Farzana Bari reminded the law enforcement agencies that law required them to take to court any citizen they pick up for anti-state activities.

Her assertion was supported by the local chief of women wing of Jamaat-i-Islami, Ayesha Munawar Hasan, and president of Islamabad District Bar Association, Syed Javed Akber and others.

And the former member of Legislative Assembly of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Sardar Khalid Ibrahim, assured the people of Kashmir “will keep favouring the struggle of missing persons’ relatives”.