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Pakistan’s dreaded ‘enforced disappearances’ expand from Balochistan to Punjab

Protest against enforced disappearance of Jibran Nasir in Karachi (Photo: Twitter)

Pakistan’s legendary human rights abuse of “enforced disappearances” in strife-torn Balochistan is now getting mainstreamed in the Punjab province as various paramilitary forces and agencies go on a kidnapping spree.

In just a couple of months since the Baloch community was protesting over the State-sponsored kidnapping of Mahal Baloch and atrocities on other Baloch women, Pakistani agencies are now implementing the same modus operandi on people in Punjab – Pakistan’s most prosperous and powerful region.

The latest to be abducted is lawyer and rights activist Jibran Nasir, who was reportedly picked up on Thursday night. According to his actor wife Mansha Pasha, nearly 15 armed men in plain clothes picked him up. Nasir’s abduction is one of the recent spate of high-profile abductions in the last few weeks beginning with the Pakistani Army’s crackdown on Imran Khan’s supporters in the wake of the audacious May 9 mass attacks on army properties.

This follows the abduction of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan who had been arrested from Sialkot and has remained missing since then.

Similarly, senior journalist Sami Abraham had been kidnapped by unidentified men in Pakistan capital Islamabad, but was lucky as he came back a week later. Abraham’s abduction was dramatic as his car was intercepted by four vehicles after he left the BOL TV office and nearly ten men took him away. Abraham’s driver was left behind with the car but no keys.

In just a fortnight, former Pakistani army official, Major Adil Raja’s mother and sister were attacked twice by gunmen in unmarked vehicles. Raja claims they were dragged and terrorised on May 16. Soon after on 1 June, Raja’s mother, uncle and cousin were abducted from Rawalpindi, the seat of the Pakistani Army, by armed men, in unmarked vehicles.

The flood human rights abuse taking place across the country including the Punjab province has drawn attention from the besieged Baloch community. In a tweet, Baloch activist on enforced disappearances, Mama Qadeer Baloch said: “The cycle of #enforceddisappearances, which began in remote corners of #Balochistan due to the absence of civil society and modern technology, is spreading to #Pakistan’s bustling cities. If we don’t unite, it will affect each of us individually. I support Jibran’s friends and family and demand his immediate release”.

A heavily militarised Balochistan has been witnessing thousands of extra-judicial killings,  enforced disappearances and tortures. The mineral-rich but poverty-infested province has been fighting for independence for the last seven decades from Islamabad’s control. The Baloch even claim that the hundreds of mutilated and rotting bodies found on the roof of the Nishtar hospital in October 2022 belonged to the Baloch people who had been forcibly kidnapped.

The Baloch have held one of the longest protests of over 5,000 days demanding the release of their kidnapped brethren. Most of the protestors happen to be women looking for their fathers, brothers and sons – killed or kidnapped by Pakistani security and spy agencies. The agencies have been increasingly using strongarm tactics against Baloch women and students by assaulting and abducting them.

Pointing out the Pakistani Army’s ingenuous ways to torture people, Mahganj Baloch of the Baloch National Movement told India Narrative in an exclusive interview that “the ISI tortured me in a hospital and not in a torture cell”. She was always surrounded by men from the Pakistani army, the Frontier Corps and the ISI. She added that most of the disappeared Baloch women do not come back and their families do not have access to courts or legal remedies.

Enforced disappearances and torture, which was exclusive to the Baloch till now is being deployed by the Pakistani government across the nation.