Light at Tunnel’s End

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Light at Tunnel’s End
missing persons issue

Light at Tunnel’s End

For the first time, the civil and military leaders appear determined to address the missing persons issue

Quetta: The sensitive issue of missing persons has remained unresolved for the last decade and a half in Balochistan. However, the civilian and military leadership now appear willing, rather determined, to resolve the issue that is being allegedly exploited on a number of national and international forums by Baloch nationalist elements and the human rights watch groups.

The current insurgency took root in Balochistan back in 2000 in the wake of the arrest of late Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, a separatist leader who was booked on murder charges of the then senior Judge of Balochisan High Court, Justice Mohammad Nawaz Marri.

Marri and his five sons were nominated in the murder case while the sixth one, Changaiz Marri who has become chieftain of the tribe after the death of his father, was not named in the FIR. Changaiz has already announced to do politics of mainstream while condemning the separatist movement of his father, besides extending support to the military policies in Balochistan.

The cases of missing persons were being reported in mid-2000 and there are conflicting data of missing persons. The government has been rejecting the figures presented by Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) by terming them as exaggerated.


The administration believes that most of those included in the missing persons list, comprising over 12 thousand, are part of the banned organisations or those who crossed into Afghanistan and were involved in anti-Pakistan activities.

The security agencies are of the opinion that when the terrorists are killed in security opertions, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons start claiming that the people killed are those who feature on the missing persons’ list.

However, VBMP rejects this claim and says that the persons are being whisked away on the doubt of being involved in terrorist activities and kept in custody for months and years while their families continue to protest, desperately seeking their release. VBMP claims that it has a list of around 7000 missing persons while 580 other have been set free and over 2000 have been killed.

The stance of Lt. Gen Asif Ghafoor, Commander 12 Corps, on the issue of missing persons is commendable. Ghafoor surprisingly brought the issue to the limelight which once was considered taboo in the government or military circles.

While owning the issue, he more than once said that he will resolve the issue and will give relief to the suffering families from their mental agony.

While giving the issue of missing persons top priority besides making efforts to turn Balochistan into a peaceful part of Pakistan, he had once said, “My heart beats with the families of disappeared persons and this issue has to be resolved on priority.”


In his address to the participants of 10th National Security Workshop, he endorsed the assertions of Barrister Saad Rasool, senior anchor Hamid Mir and VBMP Chairman Nasrullah Baloch and said that he will make sure no one would be picked up without justification or reason.”

He assured that if there was evidence against anyone of being involved in terrorist activities or being a facilitator, he would be taken into custody under the law. He expressed his sympathy with the families of missing persons and said he stood with them and would make all efforts to resolve the missing persons issue.

Lt. Gen. Ghafoor has embarked on a plan to start serious dialogue with the families of missing persons as well as with the angry Baloch leaders, whether they are underground or are self-exiled. He thinks that besides using force through Information Based Operations (IBOs) which cannot bring durable peace and tranquility in the province, there should be negotiation with these people and they should be provided the opportunities to return to the mainstream.

He says the people of Balochistan, particularly the Baloch who have not been allowed to flourish for decades, need a healing touch, love and respect in order to remove their sense of deprivation and alienation.

Efforts should be made for creating opportunities for these deprived people to make progress for a prosperous life, he says. “The enemies of the state do not deserve mercy as they play with the lives of innocent citizens who needs to be protected by the state.”

He said that one has to differentiate between enforced disappearances and missing persons as former are picked up for some reason while the later disappear for various reasons such as tribal enmity, family feuds, business deals etc.


In his address, Barrister Saad Rasool also presented some interesting facts and figures and said that the National Commission on Human Rights sincerely made its efforts for resolving the issue of missing persons and succeeded in getting a number of people released.

He said that both sides should be heard and that there was a figure of 9000 of missing persons before the commission which was incorrect. He said that there were reports that the people in thousands had crossed into Afghanistan or were involved in attacks on security forces, but are listed as missing persons.

Hamid Mir, a senior anchor person, said that the history of missing persons is very long in Pakistan as Hassan Nasir, a political activist was the first missing person who was whisked away and was later put in Lahore Fort in 1960 and was tortured to death. He was later buried in Lahore Fort without the knowledge of his family.

“Asadullah Mengal, the son of Sardar Attaullah Mengal was another one who disappeared mysteriously along with his friend and still no clue of him has been found. He lauded the step that the issue of the missing persons is being discussed before the participants of National Security Workshop who come from different walks of life. He said that the issue should be resolved to mitigate the suffering of the families.

Nasrullah Baloch, Chairman VBMP said that it is a good omen that the military people have realised that the issue of missing persons needs to be resolved and said that their families experience mental agony and they should be given justice.

He presented his figures of missing persons and quoted a number of cases of missing persons, adding that the families have been staging protests in various cities including Islamabad for their retrieval without much success.


“Their families have been assured time and again that the issue will be resolved but a large number of missing persons are yet to be traced. He admitted that the number of those who returned home is in hundreds but thousands are still missing. He categorically stated that his organisation would not stand with those who are involved in anti-state activities, but demanded that they should be produced in court of law instead of being kept  in unlawful custody since long.

Once Lt Gen Jawaid Zia, as Commander 12 Corps in 2012, while speaking to local media in Quetta, vehemently denied  that taking away people in an unlawful manner or their killing and dumping of bodies is in no way the policy of Pakistan Army. “If a Baloch youth burns the national flag, the state operative should ask his grievances instead of shooting him dead. There is a massive sense of deprivation in Balochistan as the people of the province have been ignored in all walks of life,”he said.

Lt. Gen Asif Ghafoor went one step further by initiating dialogue on the burning issue of missing persons of Balochistan with the participants of national security workshop. One could only hope that the issue is properly discussed and addressed in the military circles since only the military have the capacity and the ability to resolve the issue.

In the meanwhile, on the direction of Islamabad High Court, the government has already constituted a parliamentary committee headed by Sardar Akhtar Mengal, the head of Balochistan National Party.

The other  members of the committee include Mushahid Hussain Syed, Afrasyab Khattak, Farhatullah Babar, Asad Umar and others. The committee has held many sessions and had meetings with the vice chancellors of a number of public universities, the police officials and the personnel of security organizations.


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