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forced disappearances in sindh

August 17, 2017

The latest disappearances reported from Sindh province

The AHRC has reported a sudden increase in instances of disappearances after arrests before the impendence day of Pakistan, August 14. A so far unknown nationalist group, operating in the name and style ” All Fata Political Parties Alliance” has made a public call to observe coming August 14 as a black day in Pakistan. However,law enforcement agencies have started a drive against the civil society activists in Sindh province. The AHRC has issued an Urgent Appeal about this issue.

Reported cases from 2016 to date

Iindependent sources claim that no single day goes by without illegal arrests. Most arrests culminate in disappearances, particularly when the Inter Services Intelligence (makes such arrests. On September 1, 2016, Balochistan’s provincial inister for interior affairs stated that under the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) more than 13,500 people have been arrested in Balochistan during one and a half years, through the National Action Plan. State officials are unable to provide details or the whereabouts of the “arrested” people. Even the relatives of the victims are unaware of the fate of their family members. More than 150 dead bodies of missing persons, with torture marks on the bodies, were found by the wayside. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons claims that it has a documented 4300 cases of disappearances from Balochistan within the past 10 years. These persons are reported missing after their arrests by intelligence agency, the policemen or civilians raided their homes. Voice of Baloch Missing Persons claims that of those arrested not even 100 persons were released secret places where these persons have been detained.

Since the beginning of 2017, the state agencies target anyone who publically expresses political dissent including social media activists and bloggers. For instance Mr. Salman Haider, Professor at Fatima Jinnah University, Islamabad, Waqas Goraya, Netherlands-based, Asim Saeed, of Lahore, Mr. Ahmed Raza Naseer, of Shekhupura, Punjab and Samar Abbas, resident of Karachi, were disappeared after their arrests in the first ten days of 2017. Except for Samar Abass the other bloggers were released due to pressure from the International Community and civil society. They deemed the disappearances as a direct attack on the freedom of expression and personal liberty of the bloggers. A case of blasphemy is now pending in the Courts against them.

As per media reports, a number of missing persons, whose cases were being heard by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, were later found detained at internment centers maintained by the intelligence agencies. The exact number of ‘missing persons’ convicted by the military courts is still not known. The media reported that several missing persons are being tried in the military courts that handed down death sentences after a summary trial.

The AHRC/ALRC has been one of the few organizations working on the issue of involuntary disappearances in Pakistan. It is one of the few voices left that has not been stifled by state sanctions, arbitrary action and harassment. The AHRC/ALRC has reported several cases of disappearances through its Urgent Appeals program and has been questioning the authorities in Pakistan about the actions they have taken to end this.

The latest of such reporting was made on 28 July2017 regarding the disappearance of a young man named Sajjad in Sindh province. His two older brothers had already been extra-judicially executed. Eighteen year old Sajjad went to Karachi from his village to meet his assassinated brother’s family, and was abducted there. Sajjad was affiliated with the Sindh Human Rights Organization (SHRO), an NGO working for human rights.

Members of the minority Shia community are also not spared from being disappeared. As recently as 12 July 2017, two brothers Mohammad Ali Kashifi and Nasir Abbas Shah who were studying in Iran and Iraq, were taken into custody, illegally, from their house in the Kabirwala District in Punjab province. They had returned temporarily to Pakistan for medical treatment and marriage. The brothers, who are also religious scholars, were taken into illegal custody and have been disappeared since then.

Politically motivated enforced disappearances continue according to reports made by Jeay Sindh Qoumi Muhaz (JSQM), JSQM-Arisar, and Jeay Sindh Muttehda Mahaz (JSMM)These are Sindhi nationalist groups. At least 35 members of these parties remain missing many months after their arrests by agencies like the Pakistan Rangers, the ISI and police. The government has failed to report their whereabouts since their arrest.

A recent trend in disappearance is that involving minors. The AHRC has reported and documented two cases of enforced disappearances of minors in 2017.

According to the list of missing persons, prepared by Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP),among those documented as missing 170 were children and women. In one instance, a schoolteacher, the mother of a one-year-old son, was picked up.

On 24th May 2017, the AHRC reported the enforced disappearances of four persons from Sindh Province in its Urgent Appeal 037/2017. The men disappeared after being picked up from their homes by the intelligence agencies. These include a famous writer, a teacher, a government employee, and an Ahmadi. All four detainees, Mr. Ghulam Raza Jarwar, Mr. Ali Ahmed Bughio, Mr. Shadi Khan Soomro, Mr. Abdul Aziz- are from Badin District, Sindh Province. The police denied their arrest and have advised the family members to take up the matter with other authorities. Family members fear that those who are now in custody will be extra-judicially executed.

The case of Mr. Ghulam Raza Jarwar is particularly important since he was abducted once previously. He was kept at a military detention center for a few months before being released. The media has quoted sources from the security establishment saying that the four disappeared persons are accused of being associated with an entity called Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (Arisar group), a nationalist party, known to be working against terrorist activities.

In another case reported by the AHRC in its Urgent Appeal 025 on April 17, 2017 relates to the case of Mr. Hidayatullah Lohar. He is the Headmaster of a government primary school in Golo Ganwans village, Naseerabad, Qambar Shahdadkot District, Sindh province. Four plainclothes personnel and two police officers arrested Lohar. The same day Mr. Khadim Arijo, son of Daud Arijo, superintendent at Ministry of Food of Sindh, was arrested. Both Mr. Arijo and Mr. Lohar have been taken in custody after being accused of their affiliation with Jeay Sindh Quami Mahaz.

However, the families of both victims deny their relatives’ affiliation with any nationalist or political group. Four more activists of Jeay Sindh Quami Mahaz (Bashir Querashi group), Dr. Shayan Arijo, Mr. Aijaz Tunio, Agha Shahzaman and Bux Ali Mugheri were taken into custody by state agencies in the last week of March 2017. They were from the Hyderabad and Naseerabad districts respectively. Their whereabouts are unknown. Their family members have been threatened not to inform the media or the public.

On 3 August 2017, the AHRC reported in its Urgent Appeal 108/2017 of the illegal detention and disappearances of a 16 year old boy and a 21 year old man from Hyderabad Sindhprovince. The young boy, Master Saif Jatoi, the son of a prominent columnist was taken from his home and dragged off by officials in plainclothes. The police (as is often the case) refused to register a case of abduction. A writ petition of habeas corpus regarding the boy’s disappearance is pending in the court.

21 year old Mr. Mumtaz Somroo was also picked up by plainclothes officers on 9 July 2017. Being extremely poor, the family is unable bear the legal costs to pursue a complaint through court. The family has not approached the ourts seeking justice and the police have not registered a case.

The intelligence agencies have not spared intellectuals and political activists of mainstream political parties. Early this year three aides of former president Mr. Asif Ali Zardari were picked up by the state agencies. The disappeared aides included Mr. Ghulam Qadir Marri, Mr. Ashfaque Leghari and Mr. Nawaz Leghari. Although they were released a month later from incommunicado detention, the message was conveyed to the political parties by the intelligence agencies that they dare not cross the line.

Recommendations

The government of Pakistan must;

  1. Ratify without delay the the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance without any reservation;
  2. Criminalise enforced forced disappearance under domestic law, in line with international law and standards;
  3. Ensure full cooperation by the military and intelligence services with the judiciary and the judicial commission into disappearances, and ensure the full implementation of the commissions’ recommendations
  4. Ensure the immediate closure of all illegal secret detention centres operated by the security forces and intelligence services;
  5. Ensure civilian oversight of the military and intelligence services, and
  6. Immediately locate the whereabouts of all missing persons, release all persons being detained illegally, and ensure missing persons families’ rights to truth and reparation, in line with international standards;
  7. Ensure full, effective and independent investigations into all allegations of forced disappearances, bringing those responsible to justice

 

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