The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons criticizes the indifferent attitude of higher judiciary, judicial commissions and government
A Statement from Voice of Baloch Missing Persons forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission
The cases against enforced disappearances filed in the Supreme Court of PAKISTAN:
In 2012, former Chief Justice Iftkahr Mohammad Choudhary on the bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan accepted an Appeal by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), on enforced disappearances of Baloch political workers; and the hearing of this Appeal was being taken up in Court on daily basis. The cases were instituted against the Pakistani security agencies’ in April, 2014; the Supreme Court is yet to take up these cases for hearing. Meanwhile Balochistan faces an increase in cases of enforced disappearances.
On 10th November 2014, the acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice awad S Khawaja accepted similar Appeals through the Quetta Registry pertaining to disappearances in the Balochistan Province. However, the cases pertaining to missing persons and enforced disappearances filed in 2012 were overlooked. Justice Khawaja was later replaced by Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk. The Chairman, for the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, Nasrullah Baloch again appeared before the Court and had pleaded for the fixing of dates in the Missing Persons case but the court did not order anything to the effect.
Mr. Baloch had personally approached Justice S Khawaja, the head of bench of the Supreme Court to consider taking up the case on humanitarian grounds – it being a crisis in the Baloch region – the competent authorities later responded favorably and directed the Attorney General to set up a meeting with the Chairman of the VBMP, and made directions to the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Quetta to produce the detailed records in the Missing Persons’ case. These details were produced on 12th November 2014 before the Court. Justice S. Khawaja acknowledged the receipt of the two applications pleading fast-track proceeding of Missing Person’s case. The head of the bench of the Supreme Court, Justice Jawad S Khawaja assured the Chairman of the VBMP and had told him that , “Will examine the entire record of the Missing Persons case in Islamabad and will reserve a day for the hearing as soon as possible.”… On 3rd November 2014 the cases were finally taken up in the Court following seven months of agitation, the court later adjourned without fixing a date for the next hearing.
The hearing of cases pertaining to grave human right violation must be expedited as per the constitution of Pakistan, the Supreme Court rules also dictates that such cases shall be disposed-off within two weeks’ time. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has directed to the sub-ordinate courts to dispose-off such cases on preference basis. Yet the directive is not translated into action either by the highest echelon or the lower judiciary. Many hearings corpus petitions filed in the Supreme Court against the Law enforcement agencies are lying pending many a time the proceedings stall after an initial hearing.
The Chief Justice Iftekhar Mohd Choudary has passed two interim orders against the state agencies. The Judge warned, that “Forcibly disappeared persons must be brought court, otherwise contempt of court proceedings will be initiated”. He addressed the provincial government including state agencies in his remarks “if the rulers and institutions cannot protect its citizens, then they must not rule …”
Though the Former Chief Justice Iftekhar Mohd Choudary prior to his retirement repeatedly warned the state agencies to produce the missing person but he too proved powerless in front of the establishment. He merely paid lip service to the ordeal of the families of missing persons.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan to this date, neither ordered nor had taken any practical step whatsoever in the cases of the missing persons.
Discovery of the mass graves in Tootak (Khuzdar)
Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassadque Hussain Jelani took suo motto notice, following the press conference of Chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons on the discovery of the Mass Graves in Tootak (Khuzdar). The Chairman of the VBMP stated in his speech at the press conference that decomposed bodies and remains of humans were found in Tootak (Khuzdar). The remains in the graves were identified by the victim’s family members, the victims were abducted by the Pakistani security forces at different times from different parts of Balochistan. Many bodies could not be identified but are feared to belong to a long list of missing Bloch’s.
The Chairman of the VBMP said that the government is downplaying the number of bodies found fearing further backlash from the people of Balochistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered the Provincial Government of Balochistan to conduct DNA test of the decomposed bodies. The Provincial Government stated before the Court that the DNA test reports will be prepared within six months’ time. This annoyed the Court and the judges remarked that there cannot be any more waiting since this is a serious humanitarian issue and ordered the reports to be submitted in Court at the next hearing on May 16, 2014. After a delay of 6 months on 3rd November 2014 the case was finally taken up, only to be adjourned indefinitely.
We fear that no action will be taken against those responsible. Following the discovery of the mass grave the Security forces have sealed the area. We fear that the agencies might remove all evidence of the mass grave making it onerous task for the aggrieved family to seek justice or even know the fate of their loved ones.
The Balochistan Provincial government formed the Judicial Commission to probe the Mass Grave incident
Following the notice by the Supreme Court of Pakistan about the mass graves in Tootak (Khuzdar, the Balochistan Provincial Government formed a judicial commission which was headed by Justice Noor Mohammad Miskanzai. The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons had proposed that Human Rights Organization’s activists and journalists also be included in the Commission so that independent views and observations are made into this probe. Several other organizations suggested that the Commission also includes journalists and human rights activists to facilitate the survey of the mass graves sites and for fact finding. the Federal and provincial government denied all such request forming instead, a biased commission whose members belonged to the same security agencies who were being alleged to have committed the heinous crime. No wonder the intelligence and security agencies were absolved of all crimes in the report prepared by the commission. Interestingly the site of mass grave was cordoned off while the commission was investigating and no independent investigation agency or journalist was allowed entry.
Before the issuance of verdict by the Judicial Commission, the Home Secretary of Balochistan through a statement, published in newspapers, acquitted the security forces from the mass-graves incident. The VBMP strongly opposed this act and declared it an unlawful protection and impunity provided to security forces.
However, contrary to the statement issued by the Provincial Government the Supreme Court elaborated in its two interim orders that the security forces were in fact involved in abductions and extra-judicial killings of the Missing Persons, in the Balochistan Province.
The provincial government colluded with the agencies to brush the heinous crime under the carpet. Choosing instead to play the proverbial flute as the whole of Balochistan suffers crime against humanity. No heads rolled, no feather ruffled as bodies after bodies were discovered from the mass grave as if the deceased were not citizens of Pakistan or led a life not worth living.
The Voice for Baloch Missing Person has outright and completely rejected the above mentioned report issued by the Judicial Commission on the mass graves in Tootak.
The role of Judicial Commission in the cases of the Missing Persons
The First Judicial Commission was formed with the directives of the Federal Government in June 2010. In 2011, the second Judicial Commission was established. The compiled reports by these two Commissions have to-date not been published. The third Judicial Commission was formed under the supervision of retired Justice Javed Iqbal in March 2012 and that too failed to produce any Missing Person before the Court or have them released from custody by the state agencies.
Many former detainees who were picked and were later released by the agencies testified before the commission that several missing person are under the custody of these intelligence agencies they also provided information regarding the whereabouts of missing persons. But unfortunately the commission didn’t bother to act upon the information. The neutrality of the commission is questionable as several members of the commission are former servicemen of the agencies.
The 3rd Judicial Commission via a press conference claimed that state agencies are not involved in these abductions of people, in Balochistan, making a mockery of justice.
The VBMP rejects all the finding of the commissions terming it a non-autonomous body whose members were biased against the missing persons.
The Roles of the Provincial and Federal Governments
When Muslim League-N was the opposition party, by directives of the party president Mr. Nawaz Sharif, a delegation comprising of senior party members met with the VBMP’s officials at Quetta Press Club, and they delivered the message of their party leader. Through this message Mr. Sharif addressed the relatives of missing Baloch persons and assured them that when they would come into power and form a government, it would be their first priority to resolve the issue of Missing Persons. He further said that action would be taken against the culprits. In the same way, Provincial Government representatives were conducting meetings with the VBMP and they were making same such hollow promises.
Now these political parties are ruling in both the Federal and Provincial Governments but they have long forgotten their pledges. Instead of solving the issue of missing persons and bringing the culprits to book the same politicians are defending the illegal acts of the security forces that are committing the Human Rights abuses in Balochistan.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government passed a law called the ‘Pakistan Protection Ordinance’ which gives a legal cover to the illegal action of the security agencies giving more impunity to them. The provincial government has also given its nod. Through the promulgation of this ordinance the security agencies will be accorded arbitrary powers to impose the writ of the state. The ordinance provides that the security officials who are accused of the enforced disappearances of persons and can only be tried in a military Court and not in the Supreme Court. The VBMP strongly opposes the provision because the victims and their family members cannot appear before the military courts due to the harassment by security officials.
The security agencies are covering their tracks the bodies of missing persons are smeared with acid to ensure they become unrecognizable if they were ever to be found. Earlier the bodies of the deceased were found with a chit identifying the name and address of the victim.
The Voice for Baloch Missing persons stands in solidarity with the families of the missing persons and has instituted an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Our peaceful protests continue for the safe recovery of our loved ones.
The family of the missing person are traumatized they are keeping the hope alive that one day their loved one will come back. It is an agonizing pain to be separated from one’s son, brother, husband, father not knowing whether they are still alive. Every footstep every doorbell, every ring of the telephone feels like the call from their loved one. The families are yearning to be united once again with their father, son, husband and brother.
We thus request the international agencies, communities and NGOs working for human rights to come forward and play their part. They must exercise their power and mandate to pressurize the government to ensure recovery of the missing persons. It is the duty and obligation of every peace loving individual to play his or her part to ensure justice prevails.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organization that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.