Baloch missing persons: 621 or 23,000? A matter of contested figures

On January 1, 2011, the commission on enforced disappearances reported a total of 138 cases of missing persons. DESIGN: SIDRAH MOIZ KHAN/FILE
ISLAMABAD:  There is still a huge gap between the number of missing persons’ cases in Balochistan, as documented by a government-sponsored judicial commission, and figures claimed by nationalist groups and non-governmental organisations such as the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons.
In a press statement, the Commission on the Inquiry of Enforced Disappearances said that the total number of cases currently stands at 621. However this figure is contested by Nasrullah Baloch, the chairperson of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons.
“Absolutely wrong figures,” insists Baloch. “621? Not at all. 23,000 is the number of registered cases. From this, a whole 14,000 came during the current government’s tenure.”

On January 1, 2011, the commission on enforced disappearances reported a total of 138 cases of missing persons. From Jan 1, 2011 to Feb 28, 2013, 861 new cases were received by the commission, increasing the total number of cases to 999, out of which 378 cases have been disposed off. Thus, the current balance of the cases under investigation is 621. However, nationalist groups and non-governmental organisations in Balochistan report a much higher figure.
The commission, comprising Justice Javed Iqbal and Muhammad Sharif Virk, is known to not be trusted by Baloch nationalist parties – who have repeatedly protested the “kidnapping and torturing” of missing people.
However, the judicial commission, in the press release, claimed to conduct case proceedings regularly with the assistance of law enforcement agencies for tracing out missing persons. “The commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances is committed and determined to make all out efforts to trace the missing people,” said the statement. Furthermore, government representatives have earlier said that some of the missing people are not actually missing, but have migrated to Afghanistan or Iran.
It added that hearings are being held periodically in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta. According to it, 19 missing individuals were traced out when proceedings were held in Islamabad and Lahore last month.
Baloch refuses to buy any of this. “We, the people of Balochistan, knew from the very beginning that the commission was only created to downplay reality,” he says. “We knew that their job was to popularise incorrect facts about the plight of people in the province.”

“Of course, law enforcement agencies are abducting our people and the judicial commission is doing all it can to support it by putting up a façade of helping us. They are all in this together.”
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Zohra Yousuf said that it was disturbing to see that figures of the missing person are increasing rapidly. “The trend of missing persons will not stop unless stern action is taken against the concerned authorities,” she maintained.
Citing the incident when two corpses of Baloch missing people were recovered from Karachi, she said the families of missing persons from Balochistan were openly holding intelligence agencies and the Frontier Corps responsible for their abduction and deaths.
Yousuf said that some 62 people were went missing from Sindh last year and a majority of them reached their homes. (With additional input from APP)
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2013.


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