Terming enforced disappearances the most futile tactic to deal with political differences, Asad Iqbal Butt, vice chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Sindh chapter, warned the perpetrators to put an end to the practice forthwith.
He was addressing a protest rally on Sunday that was held to demand immediate release of the missing University of Karachi student Sagheer Ahmed Baloch and Lahore-based activist Raza Khan.
The demonstration that was organised by the HRCP and the Committee for Release of Missing Persons was also joined in by the family of another man, Kaleemullah Tunio, who was picked up a day ago from his house in Shahnawaz Goth.
“This continuing practice of forcibly disappearing people did not get this country anywhere in the past and neither will it lead it anywhere today,” Butt said. Sagheer was picked up on November 20 from KU by men in plain clothes and Raza was picked up from his house on December 2, while Kaleemullah’s family claims he was taken away, along with three of his friends, by Rangers personnel on December 16. The whereabouts of all six remain unknown.
Butt castigated political parties’ leaders and intellectuals for having orphaned this pressing problem and not naming the perpetrators behind these abductions. “This constitution, these courts and parliaments were not made by us; these institutions were made by you,” said the human rights activist while referring to the state. “If you can’t follow your own rules, don’t expect the rest of the country to abide by them either.”
Endorsing the protesters’ call for releasing all those reported missing from across the country and presenting them in courts, Butt said that nobody except the courts had the authority to decide who was or was not a criminal.
Speaking to the protesters, Sagheer’s sister Hameeda Qadir thanked all those who had joined the demonstration to call for the release of her brother as well as all the other missing persons.
Insisting that Sagheer was innocent, Hameeda reiterated that her brother was not a part of any political organisation, let alone a militant one. She demanded that Sagheer’s whereabouts be revealed and that he be released immediately.
Holding a picture of Kaleemullah, his sister also addressed the protest all the while crying inconsolably. “My brother is employed in Dubai. He had come to Karachi on holiday... he is not involved in any activity that could justify his abduction.”
His father told The News that the paramilitary personnel came at night and took away Kaleemullah and three others. He said that nobody in the family knew where his son was being kept, calling for his immediate release. “Enough is enough! This is no way to challenge a political opinion that is different than yours,” said another protester while speaking to The News.