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HYDERABAD, Sept 14: The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances was given a detailed briefing on cases of enforced disappearances of Sindhi nationalist groups, who are now demanding an independent Sindh.

The visiting UN team was informed that the issue of enforced disappearances was not restricted to Balochistan alone as Sindh was equally affected.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) chairperson Zohra Yusuf also held a meeting with the visiting group and presented an overview of cases of enforced disappearances. The group had separate sessions with relatives of missing persons and leaders of Sindh nationalist parties.

The UN officials held discussions with civil society activists on the issue.

Newly-elected senior vice chairman of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz-Bashir (JSQM-B) Akash Mallah — who himself is a victim of enforced disappearance — Dr Mir Alam Mari (a leader of JSQM-Arisar), mother of Muzaffar Bhutto (secretary-general of the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz) and Baloch leaders from Karachi’s Lyari area were among those who spoke to the team.

Representatives of various civil society organisations, including Mahnaz Fatima of the Aurat Foundation, Comrade Rochi Ram, Javed Qazi, Shuja Qureshi and Dr Jabbar Khattak, exchanged views with the officials on the issue.

According to an activist, Zulfiqar Halepoto, who acted as interpreter, the UN team was informed that Sindh suffered in equal measure when it came to the issue of enforced disappearances. “The UN team was told that not only this but people form coastal and border areas are picked up by different (intelligence) agencies despite the fact that they don’t have any political affiliation.

Those living in the areas bordering India are writers or poets and are picked up for their literary work focused on Sindh.

Likewise, fishermen living in the coastal area are picked up as they go to the deep sea for fishing,” he said.

The group was also briefed about the case of Muzaffar Bhutto, whose body was dumped on the outskirts of Hyderabad on May 22. He was first picked up in 2005 and freed in 2006 but again whisked away in February 2011. Another case presented to the group was about the mysterious death of four activists of nationalist parties in Sanghar who were burnt alive in a car. They included Qurban Khuawar and Roplo Cholyani. The case of Samiullah Kalhoro was also mentioned. Muzaffar Bhutto’s mother, Allah Bachai, along with her other son, Shahnawaz, briefed the team about her son’s case.

“The officials explained the UN group’s mandate as far as their activity is concerned”, said Halepoto, adding that the officials were informed that the people calling for the independence of Sindh disappear mysteriously.

They are never produced in courts.” Sanaullah Bhatti, a JSMM leader, was taken away and later thrown away in Tando Jam in August whereas Murtaza Chandio was picked up and later released in September, said the activist.

The HRCP has prepared a list of missing persons of Sindh and of those who had disappeared but subsequently released. Bashir Qureshi’s mysterious death was also part of the discussion.

The group was told that his party and other nationalist leaders believed that Mr Qureshi was poisoned. Around 138 people were picked up or have disappeared in Sindh over the past few years, the UN team noted.