As insurgent activity has increased in Balochistan over the past 18 months, so too have the disappearances. Between January and August of 2020, 139 people were forcibly abducted from Balochistan, while only 84 have been released.
Dr Abdul Malik, former chief minister of Balochistan, says that the “warlike” situation in Balochistan means that “just and unjust people get abducted. These
people are abducted by the security forces, though they never admit to doing it.” A Balochistan state government spokesperson says they “recognise the issue and are resolving it. Around 4,000 people have been released.”
In Sindh province, where the government recently banned several nationalist organisations, 152 people, mostly political activists, are registered as missing, according to the
organisation, Voice For Missing Persons of Sindh. In the region’s main city of Karachi, about 250 kidnap victims have never been seen again, said Asad Butt of the human rights commission of Pakistan. Currently a dozen relatives of Sindh’s
disappeared are marching the 1,500 miles from Karachi to the capital Islamabad to demand answers and justice from the government, a protest walk that will take three months.
It is an issue that haunts the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, a war-torn and formerly autonomous area, devastated by domestic and foreign military offensives, and a longstanding hub for terrorist
groups such as the Taliban.
Political activist Manzoor Pashteen recently began a movement to highlight disappearances in the region. “Since
the military operations began in former FATA in 2007-2008, around 8,000 people have been abducted and only 1,500 have been released,” he says. Pashteen says the disappearances continue unchallenged because “the issue can’t be resolved without
punishing the perpetrators and they know they are above the law”.
“Whenever anyone talks against the enforced disappearances –
lawyers, activists, journalists and politicians – they all get threatened, abducted and sometimes killed,” Pashteen says. “What can be more cruel than this?”
In Balochistan’s capital Quetta, so many families have experienced a relative being abducted that a protest camp has been a mainstay of the city for more than a decade. Dozens gather daily with crumpled photos
of fathers, sons and brothers who have disappeared. Among them Bibi Ganj Malik, whose son Ghulam Farooq was abducted, allegedly by security agencies, on 2 June 2015.
“Authorities should present Farooq in the court of law. If my son has committed any crime or found guilty, he should be punished. But at least, don’t hide him in dark torture cells,” she says. Malik never saw her son again:
she died soon after speaking to the Guardian.
In 2013, a group from the Quetta camp marched 1,500 miles to Islamabad to demand the release
of family members but they faced threats and police intimidation along the way.
Meanwhile, the body count keeps rising. In September, in Chaghi,
Balochistan, a decomposed body was found. Hafeezullah Mohammed Hasni was abducted from his home on 30 August 2016, and a military officer demanded 6.8m rupees for his release. Though the family paid the money and the officer was later imprisoned for corruption,
Hasni was still not released. Every day for the past four years, his daughter Muqaddas, only a year old when her father was taken, had stood at the protest camp in Quetta holding his picture.