Mystery of the missing persons

December 21, 2014

Abduction, killing and dumping of Sindhi nationalists have risen in recent months

Mystery of the missing persons

On October 5, 2014, 20-year-old Shakeel Ahmed Khonharo, a student of Department of Social Work, University of Sindh, Jamshoro, was getting ready in his uncle’s house in Karachi, to leave for his native village, Bakrani, district Larkana, to celebrate Eidul Azha with his family, when he mysteriously went missing.

Six days later, his body was found near Malir Cantonment.

"The law enforcement agencies abducted him," says Shakeel’s brother Wakeel Ahmed.

He claims his brother was not a criminal; there was not a single case registered against him. However, he adds, his brother was an active member of Jeay Sindh Student Federation (JSFF) affiliated to the banned Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM).

In recent months, a large number of Sindhi nationalists, majority of them belonging to JSMM, have disappeared mysteriously and their mutilated bodies have been found in deserted areas.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Sindh chapter, between November and December 2014, at least nine mutilated bodies of abducted Sindhi nationalists, mostly of the JSMM, have been found. They include, Waheed Lashari, Sarwech Peerzado, Allah Wadhayo Mahar, Asif Panhwar, Wajid Langah, Shakeel Khonharo, Roshan Brohi and Faheem Bhutto Paryal Shah.

An office bearer of HRCP, Sindh chapter, says their dumped bodies show signs of torture and mutilation.

Although the nationalist movement has been active since early 1970s, when veteran politician, G.M. Syed formed the Jeay Sindh Movement to achieve a Sindhudesh, this movement became violent in 2000s after G.M. Syed’s follower, Shafi Burfat, formed a separate group, Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), which believes in armed struggle.

Some of the Jeay Sindh leaders left the party while G.M Syed was alive. But after his death, the party has split into many factions -- using the same flag, anthem and slogans and G.M. Syed their leader. They include, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (Bashir Qureshi Group), Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (Arisar Group), Jeay Sindh Qaumparast Party (led by Qamar Bhatti), Jeay Sindh Mahaz (Rasool Bux Thebo Group), Jeay Sindh Mahaz (Sufi Hazoor Bux Group), Jeay Sindh Mahaz (led by Abdul Khaliq Junejo), Jeay Sindh Mahaz (Riaz Chandio Group), Jeay Sindh Tehreek (led by Dr Safdar Sarki), Jeay Sindh Tahreek (Shafi Karnani Group) and Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (led by Shafi Muhammad Burfat).

Another faction, Sindh United Party (SUP), led by GM Syed’s grandson Jalal Mehmood Shah believes in mainstream politics and claims prosperity to Sindh will come through the parliament. Shah has been the Sindh Assembly speaker in the past.

All of these Jeay Sindh factions claim to be the followers of G.M. Syed and believe in non-violent struggles, except Burfat’s JSMM. Established in 2000, the JSMM has so far claimed responsibility for minor incidents, such as blowing up railway tracks. In April 2013, the federal government declared Burfat’s JSMM a banned terrorist organisation.

On September 11, 2012, a half-page ad appeared on the front page of leading Sindhi language newspaper, Daily Kawish, in which Shafi Burfat invited the Consul General of Germany, UK, India, France and representatives of European Union, Australia, African countries and Arab world to attend the 108th Birth Anniversary of G.M. Syed on January 17, 2012 in Sann, Sindh. It carried flags of the United States, United Nations, and his own party, maps of the globe and Sindh, and a portrait of G.M. Syed. The ad also requested the UN to investigate the extrajudicial murders of Sindhi nationalists.

Burfat claimed that since 2002, more than 6,000 activists of his party have disappeared.

Earlier, one heard of separatists’ abductions, killings and dumping of their mutilated bodies in deserted areas in Balochistan. Of late, such cases are being reported in Sindh too. Though, majority of these belong to the banned JSMM, other mainstream political parties, including the ruling PPP and MQM, complain of similar treatment.

Vice Chairman Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Asad Iqbal Butt says that after Balochistan, the Pakistani law enforcement agencies are abducting, killing and dumping dead bodies of young people in Sindh. "We haven’t learnt from history," he adds.

Butt discloses that in the last one month, "11 people have disappeared from Karachi. We have found six bodies, five are missing," he says, continuing that the nationalists should be tried in courts, not abducted and killed.

Most of the abducted or killed nationalists belonged to Larkana District, which is the home district of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and of former JSQM leader Bashir Khan Qureshi. Bhutto’s ancestral graveyard is in Naudero and JSQM leader Bashir Khan Qureshi is buried just 18 kilometres away is Ratodero. Some of the Sindhi nationalists argue that for Pakistani establishment both are unacceptable -- those who say Pakistan khappy (We want Pakistan) and those who say Pakistan na khappy (We don’t want Pakistan), as both are being killed.

Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) leader Asif Baladi says his party believes in non-violent struggle and violence by the state or in the name of nationalism and religion is not acceptable. Baladi adds the JSMM’s armed struggle and counter reaction by the state is a conspiracy to derail the peaceful nationalist movement in Sindh.

"I don’t understand why Sindhi nationalists are compared with Baloch nationalists. We are peaceful and do not believe in armed struggles. Therefore, the act of both the armed struggle and abducting nationalists is part of a bigger conspiracy. There is no armed struggle in Sindh. So, then, why are our young nationalists abducted?" asks Baladi.

Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party (STP) Chairman Dr Qadir Magsi, once a Jeay Sindh leader who later formed his own party, STP, on the basis of parliamentary politics, also contested general election in 1997 in Thatta, which he lost to a PPP candidate.

Dr Magsi affirms that armed struggle does not exist in Sindh -- "Neither would armed struggle favour Sindh nor does abductions. I think what I see around me is nothing but a conspiracy against Sindh," he adds.

He says that so far Sindhi nationalists have been involved in blasting railway track and attacking paramilitary forces. Nothing more. "There is no justification of abduction, killing and dumping the bodies of young Sindhi nationalists," asserts Magsi.

He demands the prime minister to constitute a high level committee to probe the matter.

The Sindhi nationalists recently held rallies against crimes committed against them. This also caught international attention.

Mystery of the missing persons