ISLAMABAD, Sept 27: After having remained silent during three years of self-imposed exile, Balochistan’s former chief minister Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal finally spoke his mind in the Supreme Court on Thursday and described enforced disappearances as the real cause of the current unrest in Balochistan.
“Why should not we divorce peacefully rather than seeking for a bloody divorce if the rulers have decided to keep on giving us mutilated dead bodies,” Sardar Mengal said before a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain.
The bench had taken up a petition of former president of the Balochistan High Court Bar Association Hadi Shakeel on the law and order situation, target killings, kidnappings for ransom and missing persons in the province.
The court indicated to close the present proceedings and issue a binding injunction asking a responsible senior officer to recover all missing persons.
Sardar Mengal, president of the Balochistan National Party, came from London to especially apprise people of the issues responsible for the breakdown of law and order in the restive province.
In his distinctive demeanour, Sardar Mengal recorded a brief, but to-the-point, statement before the bench in Urdu in which he pointed fingers straight at the rulers and senior military leaders for the overall economic downturn of the country in general and Balochistan in particular.
The estranged Baloch leader also presented a six-point charter and said it was imperative for the government to take practical steps to implement the measures to create an appropriate atmosphere for Baloch reconciliation process and initiate a meaningful process of conflict resolution.
According to the charter, all covert and overt military operations against Baloch people should be ended immediately; all missing persons should be procured before a court of law; all proxy death squads operating in a manner like Al Shams and Al Badar operated (in Bangladesh) allegedly under the supervision of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) should be disbanded; Baloch political parties should be allowed to function and resume their political activities without any interference from intelligence agencies; persons responsible for inhuman torture, killing and dumping of bodies of Baloch political leaders and activists should be brought to justice; and measures should be initiated for rehabilitation of thousands of displaced Baloch living in appalling condition.
The situation in Balochistan was worse than in Kashmir or Palestine, Sardar Mengal claimed. Tracing the history of missing persons’ phenomenon, he said the first such incident had taken place in 1976 when his younger brother Asadullah Mengal was abducted from Karachi along with his friend Ahmed Shah Baloch.
“Nobody knows why they were picked up, on what charges and who were responsible for arresting them and where they were buried. Now we have heard that their tortured bodies were either buried in Thatta (Sindh) or in Kashmir. Had such tendencies been checked then, today we would not have been facing a huge number of missing person cases,” he said.
He also narrated how he had remained incarcerated for 16 months for launching a political rally in 2006 for which he had to suffer when some MI sleuths tried to kidnap his children but were caught red-handed. Earlier also the rulers used to accuse Baloch political activists of either joining jihadi camps or taking refuge in neighbouring Afghanistan and the same excuses were offered now for the missing Baloch.
To prove his point the Baloch leader presented excerpts from a book titled ‘Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Afwah aur Haqiqat (rumours and fact)’ composed by Altaf Qureshi in which the former prime minister cited the same reasons after Asadullah Mengal was kidnapped.
“For the first time after 65 years of injustice, we have seen a ray of hope in the shape of present court proceedings,” he said, adding that the chronic issue of missing persons should end now.
He regretted that the Baloch had suffered five military operations and said the announcement of general amnesty, development packages or apologising with the people of Balochistan would not heal or ameliorate the sufferings endured by them over the past 65 years.
Sardar Mengal said the future of Balochistan could not be decided inside plush drawing rooms on a 4x4 feet city map. Did the federal or provincial ministers ever visit Balochistan or were outside their fortified fiefdoms, he asked. “Baloch nationalists are being eliminated and instead of giving representation to true representatives, manufactured leaders are being installed.”
The court appreciated and expressed gratitude for the assistance provided by Sardar Mengal for resolving the Balochistan issue.
It ordered Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad to bring to the notice of the authorities concerned, including the prime minister and the heads of ISI, MI and Intelligence Bureau, the issues highlighted by Sardar Mengal and inform the court about their response on Friday.