QUETTA: Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) President Sardar Akhtar Mengal has announced that his party would contest the upcoming elections on the slogan of “recovery of missing persons”.
He lamented that despite raising the issue at all forums, nothing was done by the government to resolve it.
Speaking at a seminar, organised by the ‘Voice for the Baloch Missing Persons’ to observe the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance on Wednesday, Mr Mengal said his family was also a victim of enforced disappearance, as his elder brother Asad Mengal was picked up and disappeared by the forces in the 1970s and the family was later informed he was no more.
“Despite knowing Asad Mengal is no more, we are still waiting for him. I wake up from a deep sleep to remember my elder brother in the night,” Mr Mengal told the gathering.
He said that Kashmir Day, Freedom of the Press, Women’s Day and other national and international days were being observed officially but no government institution and institutions, including the human rights ministry, organised any event to commemorate this day.
Interim Balochistan govt denounces ‘politicisation of the issue’ “The issue of missing persons was raised at all forums, including national and provincial assemblies and even the Senate, but no step was taken to recover them,” Mr Mengal said, adding that many commissions were formed on the issues but it still persisted.
Although the government released 400 people, it came at the cost of the disappearances of 2,000 more, he claimed. “Whenever the family asked about my brother, the authorities said the sovereignty of the country was at stake and they never gave any reply about his whereabouts,” he said. “If the sovereignty of the country is linked with dead bodies and blood, the country cannot protect itself.”
Referring to the suicide attack in Turbat carried out by a young girl, Mr Mengal said he didn’t endorse or support such actions, but “we need to consider what led that young girl to take such a step.”
He claimed that her uncle was forcibly detained and grandfather was threatened to leave the BNP if they continued to struggle for the recovery of their missing family members.
Addressing the event, National Party Vice President Kabir Mohammad Shahi questioned how the Constitution could ensure people’s safety if it couldn’t defend itself.
“Our mothers and sisters are on the streets protesting for the recovery of their loved ones. There is not a single home in Balochistan which hasn’t received a dead body or is not awaiting the recovery of a missing relative,” Mr Shahi claimed.
“The fiancées of missing individuals wait and ask the authorities the same question: ‘Should we wait for them or not?’”
He asserted the people of Balochistan were only requesting the presentation of missing individuals in courts. “If they are not brought to trial, what is the purpose of spending billions on the courts?”
Voice for Baloch Missing Persons Chairman Nasarullah Baloch, Awami Party’s Mahbat Kaka, Advocate Rahab Buledi of Supreme Court Bar Association, Advocate Changez Hayee Baloch, Dr Shari, Baloch, Balochistan Union of Journalist President Irfan Saeed, Bijar Khan Marri, Mitta Khan Marri and others also spoke at the seminar.
Politicising of missing persons’ issue
The Balochistan government has “expressed disappointment” over what it called the “continued politicisation of the issue of missing persons”.
A spokesman for the interim provincial government said certain political parties that have raised the issue of missing persons in the lead-up to the elections campaign were accusing the government of being responsible for these disappearances.
“The government firmly advises against exploiting this sensitive matter for political gains,” he said and “vehemently denied the allegations” and asserted the government’s “unwavering commitment to locating and rescuing all missing individuals”.
He said the missing persons issue had been exploited to receive votes by political parties and was once again becoming a contentious topic during elections.