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Muzaffar Bhutto’s wife Saima Bhutto weeps as she talks to media persons after Bhutto was found dead. — Photo by Online

LAHORE, May 23: The murder of nationalist leader Muzaffar Bhutto, one of the prominent victims of enforced disappearance in Sindh, and the brazen attack on a peaceful political rally in Karachi on Tuesday that claimed at least 16 lives appear to be the latest manifestations of violent suppression of political debate and in the absence of effective measures can plunge Sindh into Balochistan-style mayhem, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said on Wednesday.

A statement issued by the HRCP said: “The body of Muzaffar Bhutto, secretary general of Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz, who went missing in February 2011, was found near Hyderabad. He was shot in the head and in the upper torso and the body also bore torture marks. He had also been picked up in 2005 but was allowed to return home.

The family alleged involvement of state agencies and insisted that Mr Bhutto was neither a terrorist nor a criminal, but only a political activist.

He was one of the many victims of enforced disappearance in Sindh in recent months. Several other activists, among them members of JSMM, remain untraced.

The HRCP has been able to verify at least 41 cases of enforced disappearance in ‘interior Sindh’ since November 2010. Out of these 26 people have been traced or released and 14 remain missing. Fifteen of these missing individuals were mainly political activists from Badin, of whom nine have been released and six remain missing.

The HRCP said it was alarmed at these Balochistan-style disappearances and now the dumping of bodies was expanding to Sindh.

“One hopes that the authorities have learned their lesson by now and would desist from relying on the illegal practice of picking up citizens and holding them in violation of law in Sindh or indeed anywhere in the country.

“The courts should also take note of the disappearances and order recording statements of those who have come back from captivity with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

“The attack on a political rally and the resulting loss of life marks a clear deterioration in the law and order situation in Karachi, where senseless violence and killings may have become the norm but a political rally had never been targeted in the manner it was on Tuesday evening.

“The belated response from police on Tuesday was nothing less than what the people have come to expect of police, opening fire as political activists protested the killings. The authorities must launch a transparent investigation into the attack to identify and bring to justice the killers.

“The government must realise that the law and order agencies’ inability to protect the rally and the people in general, or to apprehend the perpetrators of violence is prompting not only charge of incompetence but also complicity. There is an urgent need to revive people’s trust in the law-enforcement agencies, and that cannot come about by mere rhetoric.

“The authorities must ensure that government agencies are reined in and dissent and struggle for political rights are not countered by violence or strong-arm tactics. The civil society and political parties must also play their role in addressing the very tense situation.”