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Families of disappeared people protest in Islamabad even as Pakistan arrests Baloch leader in Gwadar

Families of disappeared people protest in Islamabad. (File Photo)

Families of people who have gone missing in Pakistan at the hands of the intelligence and the military held a demonstration in front of the Pakistani parliament in Islamabad on Thursday to protest against enforced disappearances.

Baloch organisation–Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM),  the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and various human rights organisations joined the protest, which was held a day before the International Human Rights Day on December 10.

Geopolitical analyst Mark Kinra told India Narrative that the numbers of forcibly disappeared people from the Baloch and Pashtun communities is staggering.

Kinra said: "In a 2019 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) titled 'Balochistan: Neglected Still', Mama Qadeer had claimed that nearly "47,000 Baloch and around 35,000 Pashtuns are missing" in Pakistan.

The organisations protested on the same day when the Gwadar police authorities arrested the 77-year-old Baloch nationalist leader Yousuf Masti Khan on charges of sedition at the ongoing protest in Gwadar port city. Khan was arrested for delivering a speech in which he said that Balochistan was made a part of Pakistan by force in 1947.

The sedition case against Mastikhan also says that Pakistan considers the people of Balochistan to be ‘slaves’. He reportedly told the Gwadar protestors, gathered under the banner of 'Give Rights to Gwadar', that Pakistan has been stealing gas from the province since 1953.

The Give Rights to Gwadar movement, or Gwadar ko Haq do, is a three-week long protest that seeks basic rights like water, power and access to fishing for its people. The protestors have also voiced their resentment against the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Khan's arrest was immediately condemned across the restive province of Balochistan.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned Khan's arrest. It said that the elderly Baloch leader has only asked for civil, political and economic rights for Gwadar residents, to which they are entitled. It said: "To charge him under archaic and repressive colonial laws in undemocratic. He must be released immediately and unconditionally, especially given his poor health".

Pakistan has been under pressure over the slide in its human rights indices and social situation.

Just last week, it was in the news for the brutal lynching of Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan national, over charges of blasphemy.

In November, human rights group Amnesty International had published a report, 'Living Ghosts' that spotlighted the Pakistani State policy of enforced disappearances. The organisation urged the Pakistani government to end the use of forced disappearances as a tool of State policy and to consider the plight of families whose relatives had been abducted by the Pakistani security forces.