COMMENT : Feeling abandoned and hopeless — Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur


The WGEID clearly stated that theirs was a “fact finding” mission based on “humanitarian” considerations and they were in no way tasked with collecting evidence 

The delegation of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) composed of Olivier de Frouville, chairperson, and Osman El-Hajjé, on conclusion of its ten-day official visit gave its views in a brief report. They poignantly underlined the plight of the missing persons in Balochistan and other places with, “Most of the families we have met, telling their stories, felt abandoned and hopeless.” That is the only way that the families can feel when their missing relatives have been ‘involuntarily disappeared’ by the state and are left with no recourse to justice because no institution, even if it so desired, is strong or foolhardy enough to challenge those responsible for ‘enforced and involuntary disappearances’.

Sheikh Saadi narrates a parable in Gulistan. A king afflicted by a terrible disease was told by his physicians that only the bile of a person endowed with certain physical qualities could assuage his pain. In the ensuing search, the son of a peasant meeting the criterion was found. His parents were summoned and their consent acquired by giving them wealth. The qazi (magistrate) readily decreed that shedding the blood of a subject was permissible if necessary for the safety of the king, and so the executioner sharpened his sword. The forsaken boy at the block looked heavenwards and smiled. Surprised, the king inquired, “What prompts smiles in such a situation?” The youth sagely replied, “A son expects affection of his parents and expects their protection with a plea before the qazi for seeking justice from the king. In my case the parents have abdicated their responsibility for worldly thrash, the qazi has justified my murder, the king thinks his salvation depends on my destruction; therefore, I see no other refuge besides God the Most Exalted.”

Paish keh bar aawarum az dastat faryaad/Hum paish-e-tu, az dast-e-tu hamain khawahum daad

(What use seeking redress for miseries befalling me?/From one who perpetrates injustice and tortures me).

These heartrending words mellowed the king’s heart and he said, “‘Tis better to perish than shed innocent blood.” He hugged the child and bestowed him with boundless wealth. It is said, within a week the king recovered.

Saadi’s parable has a happy ending, but there is no such luck for the involuntary disappeared persons and their relatives because the entire state is arrayed against them and there exists no feasible redeeming factor. They have to seek redress from those who are the source of their miseries. Anyone who is put into this position is naturally going to feel ‘abandoned and hopeless’. The king in question was affected by the youth’s predicament but the rulers here remain unmoved by the tragic and brutal deaths and disappearances of hundreds of Baloch and other activists at the hands of the state.

As in the parable, the life of the king demanded the death of the boy; here too. The state thinks its life is at stake and this prompts it to kill. Therefore, the WGEID delegation said, “We draw attention, in this respect, to Article Seven of the Declaration, which provides that ‘No circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify enforced disappearances.’ Naturally, these killings would not have been perpetrated without impunity for the perpetrators; impunity encourages the brutality.” Navi Pillay, High Commissioner for Human Rights, during her visit here said, “Impunity is dangerously corrosive to the rule of law in Pakistan.” It is not only corrosive to the rule of law it is corrosive even for rule by moral principles. Impunity categorically corrodes any justification for the existence of an entity. The WGEID recommended the creation of ‘a new and autonomous crime of enforced disappearances’. I would not call them naïve for hoping for a change here, but experience belies such hope.

The WGEID expressed concern that, “The Working Group received allegations according to which some of the persons with whom we met had been threatened or intimidated. We call on the State to guarantee the safety of those who have met with us and protect them against any form of reprisals, threat or intimidation.” And further, “According to the information received by the WGEID, the practice of enforced disappearances was also a tool to target political or human rights activists, who are legitimately exercising their freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.” This shows that violence against the people is pervasive and indiscriminate. If people were intimidated even while they had an avenue of registering complaints, what happens in future, only time would show.

The WGEID clearly stated that theirs was a “fact finding” mission based on “humanitarian” considerations and they were in no way tasked with collecting evidence with a view to initiate criminal proceedings because this was not within the WGEID’s ambit. Yet during the hearing of the Balochistan target killings case, the Supreme Court questioned that when the issue of missing persons was sub judice, why had the UN delegation been invited to visit Pakistan? This in spite of the fact that during this very hearing the Chief Justice of Pakistan said, “We are not satisfied with the statement as we have been hearing the matter on a case to case basis,” and added that the missing persons were with the Frontier Constabulary and there was evidence against it. The CJP said out of 1,700 to 1,800 incidents, there were allegations about the FC’s involvement in around 1,000 cases. The way this issue is being dealt with here, it is destined to remain sub judice eternally, and future visits will be resisted tooth and nail by the ‘establishment’ because these put them in an awkward position by exposing its misdeeds and hollowness. This means that those feeling abandoned and hopeless will remain just that: abandoned and hopeless.

In conclusion the WGEID said, “A mother of a disappeared person has asked us to convey a message to all persons in charge of public affairs in Pakistan. She asked, ‘If your child disappeared, what would you do?’” They added that this question summarised the ordeal that the families were going through. Dear readers, after asking this question yourself, for a moment spare a thought for the sufferings of those who are still missing, those whose mutilated bodies were dumped, and their agonised relatives. Then contemplate the injustices that our silence encourages.

The writer has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He tweets at mmatalpur and can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

Courtesy: Daily Times

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