Below we present a transcript of an interview carried out by phone with writer and journalist Mohammad Hanif.
Asif Magsi: You have written extensively about the issue of missing persons in Balochistan, what made you write on this issue?
M. Hanif: I haven’t written much, I think in total I have written about 08 to 10 pieces, 08 in English and 06 or 07 in Urdu. So, I don’t think it’s a lot. The reason that I decided to write about the Baloch missing persons was that nobody was writing about it in the mainstream media. You might have noticed that this issue has been around for quite a few years, so although sometimes newspapers report statistics, which are issued by human rights organization, but nobody ever tries to go and talk to the families of missing people, we refuse to give them a human face, we refuse to acknowledge the fact that these kidnappings are being carried out by state agencies. There are lots of missing people in Pukhtoonkhua and Punjab as well but since lot of these cases are happening in Balochistan. Balochistan is considered a remote part of Pakistan not just geographically but in our imagination as well. So, there seems to be this consensus in the media or this unwritten rule that this story should not be reported for various reasons, and I think that’s why I decided this to be very valid story and it should be reported.
Since 2005, the Human Rights Commission has been paying special attention to the increasingly alarming human rights situation in Balochistan. The Commission has organized four fact-finding missions to the province, the reports of which have been widely disseminated. A special desk on missing persons has also been set up in Quetta that maintains data on enforced disappearances and killings.
However, it was after reading Mohammed Hanif’s account of his meeting with Qadeer Baloch in Dawn that the idea of a book came to me. Hanif’s conversation with Qadeer Baloch about the disappearance and killing of his son, Jaleel Reiki, was moving – and disturbing – in a way that statistics can never be. I knew that if HRCP were to publish a book about the missing in Balochistan, Hanif would be the writer to put the stories together. He was quick to agree and joined HRCP’s fact-finding mission to Balochistan in May 2012.