Enforced disappearances: Facts and Vested Propaganda

Author: Ahmad Ali

Enforced disappearances issue in Pakistan has been a favorite of sub nationalists, foreign funded civil society groups and HR activists. The blanket outrage is championed by terror apologists like Mahrang Baloch.

These well-coordinated efforts frequently elicit global outcry, prompted by hostile actors like Indian government and like-minded international media fractions. In the narrative uncertainty and purposefully generated fog surrounding the topic of missing persons, half-truths and misleading statements emerge, obscuring what little there is to investigate in the conversation. Pakistan’s economy is rebounding, diplomatic ties are improving, and the newly established administration is beginning to gain international confidence. As a result, linguistic and separatist parties have no special goals other than to cause turmoil. This scenario is being fueled by terrorist sympathizers and Baloch separatists.

Responding empathetically to the claims, Pakistan’s security institutions and governments formed multiple commissions to investigate the issue and propose solutions. The commission formed during PTI’s tenure comprised of Minister for Law & Justice (Convener) Human Rights, Advisor to the PM on Interior, IGP ICT, and representatives of ISI and IB. Similarly, the commission formed by the PDM government composed of Minister for law, Minister for interior and 6 other Ministers. While the commission formed by the interim government was headed by Baloch ultra-nationalist leader Sardar Akhtar Mengal and consisted of highly regarded senators and senior academicians from LUMS.

Media and human rights organisations paint missing persons with the brush of enforced disappearances.

Despite difference in their formation, commissioning and timeline, the findings and recommendations have consistently remained same. The majority of the occurrences were of voluntary missing persons rather than enforced disappearances.

Here, it is important to differentiate between the two. While the former includes people who went missing at their own accord and whose whereabouts are still unknown, the latter implies imprisonment by state. The media and human rights organisations within and outside the country paint the missing persons with the brush of enforced disappearances, thus blurring the line between the two and creating confusion. The commissions concluded that hostile international agencies have been involved in recruiting Pakistani nationals, particularly young Baloch students, for terrorist activities by funding sub nationalist organizations in Pakistan.

These indoctrinated individuals abandon families without any notice, leaving them agrieved and helpless. The intense pain and lack of understanding by these families force them to seek answers invariably from rights organisations. They hope that the person is in state custody and at least alive. Their desperation and voices are used to replace cases of missing persons with cases of enforced disappearances. Likewise, the commissions also highlighted that these voluntary disappearances also take place during the trans-border movement to countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, where people willingly go to participate in wars against rival forces.

It is imperative to take a look at the global statistics of missing persons, according to which; US has approximately 546,568 cases up until 2022. UK reports almost 170,000 cases annually. India, 64,851 people go missing every month. Pakistan’s Figures based on the report of the Missing Persons Commission; Out of 10,078 individuals reported missing, 7,781 have been recovered (77 percent), leaving 2,297 still missing. Among these, 1,477 are involved in voluntary disappearance or abduction cases, while 820, mostly affiliated with militant groups like the TTP or BLA, have joined terrorist organizations.

In light of these insights, commissions have made comprehensive recommendations suggesting resolving the issue of missing persons in Pakistan through several measures. Which include; Providing government jobs and healthcare to victims’ families. Because one cannot deny challenges faced by Baloch youth due to lack of development resulting from difficult terrain, ineffective governments and sensitive security situation. Enacting legislation for financial support and legal resolution.

Referring all disappearances’ cases to the MP Commission. Financial aid and legal assistance should be provided, with cases closed upon resolution. Similarly, accurate information dissemination is crucial to combating false propaganda.

Additionally, measures to combat misinformation and racial profiling. Establishment of a centralized missing persons database is deemed essential. Lastly, the findings highlight the need to differentiate between missing persons and enforced disappearances, often influenced by hostile agencies with ill agenda of destabilizing Pakistan and exploit its ethno-provincial fault lines.

The writer is a research fellow at Epis Think-tank Germany and an intern at Kashmir institute of International relations. His field of studies includes Foreign Policy and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at ali7664556@gmail.com

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