Sunday, September 26, 2010

Raisani must be kidding

If historians and journalists were waiting for a haunting quote from Balochistan’s chief minister, here it comes. Nawab Mohammad Aslam Raisani, the chief minister, astounded everyone in Khuzdar during a press-talk by saying that most of the missing persons had “deliberately gone underground to malign the country’s intelligence agencies”. If former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf’s infamous quote, “it is not the 70s that you will hit and run…We will hit you in a way that you don’t know what hit you”, has become one of the most widely quoted statements of a man who devastated Balochistan, one can assertively predict that this statement of Chief Minister Raisani will go down in the history as the most disgraceful proclamation ever made by a Baloch chief minister.

The chief minister repeated what was once said by former dictator General Pervez Musharraf and subsequently by Rehman Malik, the current interior minister, that the missing persons had willingly gone abroad. Gone abroad? For what? He said the elements responsible for target killings were also responsible for hiding their associates and then showing them as “disappeared people”. In his words, the missing persons have deliberately gone underground and now the issue is being raised to embarrass the country’s intelligence agencies. Raisani, the fist chief minister in the history of Balochistan to be elected unopposed, is of the view that it is unreasonable on the part of the missing persons’ families to hold the agencies responsible for the whole mess.

Expectedly, a very emotional reaction has come from the families of the missing persons in response to the chief minister’s statement. If the government cannot deliver justice to the families of the missing persons due to its inefficiency and powerlessness to check the influence of the secrete services then it should not at least hurt the sentiments of the mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and sons of the missing persons. Once living a dignified and peaceful life inside their homes, these Baloch mothers are seen languishing from one press club to the other while holding the photographs of their beloved ones. Politics is one thing but no one, including the chief minister, has the right to insult human feelings to give a coverup to his government’s inefficiencies.

Government stance on the issue of disappeared people has varied from time to time due to its very ‘sensitive’ nature. No county in the world has such a high number of missing persons as Pakistan. Majority of them belong to Balochistan. When civil society organizations raised the issue very vocally, the government of Pervez Musharraf refuted such reports and said there were no missing persons. When pressure mounted after the family members of the missing persons coordinated with each other and organized themselves, they emerged as a loud and powerful voice. Amana Masood Janjuha in the Punjab and the family members of Ali Asghar Bangulzai in Balochistan must be applauded for pioneering the movement for the recovery of missing persons.

When the cat was out of the bag during Musharraf government, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Ifthakar Mohammad Chaudhary took suo moto notice of several missing persons’ cases. It was in fact a very selective process of dispensing justice because no Baloch gained relief out of the initiatives taken by the CJP. Yet, the CJP was sacked by Musharraf on the issue of missing persons which manifested the omnipotence of the forces that are masterminding these cases of disappearance.

At another stage, former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, confirmed with the media in Turbat (Balochistan) that some four thousand people were missing in Balochistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also quoted these figures in its comprehensive fact-finding report on Balochistan.

Inaction led to frustration. The Baloch Liberation United Front (BLUF) kidnapped an American national, who was heading the Quetta office of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in February this year solely to press the government of Pakistan to release around 1400 missing or detained Baloch persons and some 141 women allegedly kept in the custody of security forces. That episode also failed to yield any positive results in the case of missing persons.

Worst still, the Chief Justice of Pakistan has completely kept quit on the Baloch missing persons issue after his reinstatement on the prestigious post. Despite belonging to Balochistan, Chaudhary has disappointed the family members of the missing Balochs. Even some key members of the judicial movement that led to the restoration of the deposed chief justice now say they squandered their energies at a wrong place. The movement did not worth it, they say, because it failed to bring justice to Balochistan.

Raisani’s current statement –about missing persons having deliberately gone underground to miligan the intelligence agencies –sounds ridiculous given the fact that Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, who belongs to the same party of the Balochistan Chief Minister, issued a verified list of 992 missing Baloch persons this month. Does Raisani have an answer to the families of at least these 992 missing persons? Why would these people go underground as most of them belong to the families that live below poverty line? The missing persons’ list includes people from lower professions such as students, shopkeepers, tailor masters, clersk, paramedics etc.

Besides being the chief minister of Balochistan, Raisani is a reputed tribal chief in Balochistan. Thus, people want to share their sorrows with them with the hope that the latter can play a role to resolve their problems. He should apologize to the aging mothers of the missing persons for deeply hurting their sentiments as these aggrieved mothers now prepare to sit on a hunger strike in front of Quetta Press Club from December 30th amid freezing temperature of Quetta.

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