“We cannot eat, we cannot sleep — we can only hope and that hope is fast dwindling so we pray that our loved ones will be returned to us.”
On April 13, 2011 the three member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the supervision of Justice Javaid Iqbal heard the cases of the missing persons. Victims from Balochistan whose loved ones were allegedly abducted by the state intelligence agencies, individually came before the court and provided the details of their cases.
The relatives of the disappeared persons pointed out to the court that they were tired of testifying before judicial bodies as no apparent results had been seen. They also announced that they would not record their statements in future and that, to their knowledge, others would no longer bother to report as it was becoming more and more obvious that the judicial bodies set up to investigate forced disappearances were simply eye wash.
In the case of Ali Asghar Bangulzai (CP55- 2007) his nephew Nasrullah Baloch, came before the court and told the three member bench about the First Information Report (FIR) filed against the heads of the intelligence agencies about the illegal abduction of Bangulzai and Muhammad Iqbal who was arrested along with him. A former Member of the National Assembly (MNA), Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, and eight witnesses including Muhammad Iqbal, who was later released, testified before the different bodies which were constituted by the governments and higher judiciary. They testified that they had recorded their statements before the Judicial Commission and Joint Investigation Team and the police that Bangulzai was in the custody of the army but that even after eight months the Commission had taken no action against the intelligence agencies for his recovery. With the strength of the testimonies of these witnesses it is clear that Bangulzai was in the custody of the army but until now, neither the Judicial Commission, nor the police or any other committees have made any moves to produce him before any lawful authority.
What this lack of action shows is that the Judicial Commission does not have power to take action against the intelligence agencies and recover Bangulzai from their custody, Nasrullah said in an impassioned testimony:
“We appeal to the court to take action against the heads of the intelligence agencies against whom First Information Report has been filed and issue the arrest warrants and bring them before the court to ask them where Bangulzai is and in which condition he is? In the case of Ali Asghar Bangulzai the FIR was registered against the heads of Inter services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI). According to the law of Pakistan it is our right that Supreme Court must take action against the intelligence agencies and give us justice. Because in last 11 years we have knocked the doors of all the departments for seeking justice and peacefully recorded our protests for the recovery of Bangulzai and in these 11 years continuously we are recording the eye witness statements before the courts, different committees, the Judicial Commission and Joint Investigation Team, since then till now we are waiting for justice. Several times we have recorded the statements of the evidences and we became tired of recording statements every time, from now we will not record evidences statements before any department. Now we need such department or person which can give us justice in the light of these evidences, because the family of Bangulzai became tired knocking all the doors of the departments again and again which are made for justice, for seeking justice and now we must be told that if he has been killed during detention or he is alive we must be told because family of Ali Asghar Bangulzai is facing many problems including financial problem.”
When the three member bench under Justice Javaid Iqbal inquired from the Crises Management Cell Director, Fareed Khan, if the witnesses of Ali Asghar Bangulzai had recorded their statements before the Judicial Commission, the Joint Investigation Team and to the Investigation Officer of the First Information Report giving all details and evidence concerning Bangulzai and asked what action had been taken in the case Fareed Khan replied that in the coming meeting with the intelligence agencies the family members would be allowed to join the meeting and sit down with the officials.
On this point Nasrullah said that intelligence agencies were more powerful than the Judicial Commission and that this is why the commission has not taken any affective action against the intelligence agencies. It is because of this that the intelligence agencies in the meetings with the Judicial Commission do not take the matter seriously. In fact, when asked they merely laugh, saying this person is not with us. Despite the weight of the evidence provided by the witnesses to the head of the commission no action is taken even when the heads of the intelligences agencies report to the commission that their denial of the presence of disappeared persons in their custody is a routine reply. In fact, high officials of the Judicial Commission have confessed that the denial of keeping the persons with them is their stereo typed statement yeh hamara takya kalam hai (this is our routine stereo way of denial).
From this, Nasrullah said, “…..it is clear that the Judicial Commission record the statements knowing full well that they do not have the power to take action against the intelligence agencies. It shows the fact that the commission records the statements to extend and make the issue of missing persons long. For this reason we appeal to Supreme Court on the presence of this evidence. The Court should take action against the intelligence agencies.”
The learned Judge consoled Nasrullah, the nephew of Bangulzai and said that when this report will be submitted in the Supreme Court, court will take action and the family of Ali Asghar Bangulzai would be provided justice.
Other family members of persons abducted from Balochistan including the daughter of Doctor Deen Muhammad Mehlab Baloch, the sister of Zakir Majeed Farzana Majeed, the father of Jaleel Reki Qadeer Baloch, the sister of Sameer Rind Sameeria Rind, the sister of Abdul Ghaffar Langove Ruksana Baloch and the sister of Sana Sangat Baloch came before the Court and told the Chief Justice that they had adopted the legal process through the courts and peaceful protest for the safe recovery of their loved ones, but after such a long time they are not getting justice.
They stated in their testimonies that they only time they know anything about the fate of their loved ones is when bullet riddled bodies are recovered. And because it is not that of their family member they can only hope that he is still alive.
They told the Court that the only ones who can feel our pain are those whose brother, father, or son or daughter is missing. They do not know from one day to the next if their loved ones are dead or alive. At night time, they often sit with their eyes fixed on the front door, hoping against hope that the missing persons will walk through it. Until that happens they cannot sleep or eat without thinking about that person. They live on hope that is fast dwindling.
Mr. Justice Javaid Iqbal, the head of the bench, ordered the Minister of the Interior of Balochistan province, the Federal Secretary of the Interior, the Chief Secretary of Balochistan and the Inspector General of Police, Balochistan to appear before the next hearing and submit reports about the missing persons.
The Asian Human Rights Commission is concerned that the situation of forced disappearances in Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular is ongoing and despite appeals by international agencies and the families of the victims nothing appears to be happening to either curtail the disappearances or recover the victims. In view of the apparent lack of action on behalf of the judicial and government authorities the family members have lost all confidence in the institutions of justice. They have only their hope that one day soon, the missing persons will be returned to them alive. The government of Pakistan must take action to halt the forced disappearances by the military and intelligences agencies or face the possibility that the people of their country will lose patience and take the matter into their own hands.