April 24, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11292

Columns In Urdu-Language Pakistani Dailies Discuss 'Missing Persons': 'The Involvement Of Missing Persons In Various Incidents Of Terrorism... Is A Matter Of Grave Concern'; 'Not Just Two Or Four, Hundreds Of People Are Missing From Baluchistan'

April 24, 2024
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 11292

In recent columns in Pakistan's Urdu-language newspapers, two Pakistani columnists discussed the issue of "Missing Persons,"  a term used to refer both to terrorists in Pakistan, especially in the border tribal region, as well as to civil rights activists and secessionists in Baluchistan province, who are believed to have been picked up by intelligence agencies over the past decade and more.

In September 2012, Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the then chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, described Pakistani intelligence agencies as "death squads" after they refused to comply with 60 of his orders from 68 court hearings.[1] After 9/11, the Pakistani government indeed captured many terrorists and handed them over to the U.S. However, the reference to "Missing Persons" predominantly means the Baluchi activists, academics, students, and rebels who have been routinely picked up by Pakistani intelligence agencies, and their relatives routinely organize protests and rallies in Islamabad to highlight the issue and get emotional closure.

Baloch women at a protest in Islamabad demanding freedom for their missing relatives (image courtesy: Twitter)

After the March 26, 2024, terror attack at Bisham in Shangla district in which five Chinese nationals were killed, former Pakistani lawmaker and columnist Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani wrote an article, titled "New Wave of Terrorism," in the Urdu daily Roznama Jang, presenting a pro-military view and arguing that the "Missing Persons" refer to terrorists who launch attacks in Pakistan from their hideouts in Afghanistan and Baluchi activists in terror training camps in India and Iran.

On January 5, 2024, noted columnist Shahnawaz Farooqui wrote a provocative column in the Urdu daily Roznama Jasarat titled "Pakistan or Laptastan",  which coined the term "Laptastan" to mean "the land of Missing Persons." Roznama Jasarat belongs to Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. In his article, Shahnawaz Farooqui criticized those who do not acknowledge the issue of "Missing Persons" and argued that Pakistan's military generals have always made one thing or another go "missing," including half of Pakistan itself in the 1971 war.

Following are excerpts from Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani's article:[2]

"After 9/11, Attempts Were Made By International Forces To Make Baluchistan A Part Of The Great Game; There Were Reports In The Media That Secret Agencies From At Least Three Foreign Countries Who Want To Use Innocent Baloch Citizens Are Active In Baluchistan"

"A vehicle belonging to Chinese engineers was attacked and fell into a deep ditch at Basham in the area of Shangla in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Five Chinese citizens and a Pakistani driver lost their lives as a result of the alleged suicide attack [on March 26, 2024]. The Basham attack was strongly condemned at the highest level of government, including by the president [Asif Zardari]. The prime minister of Pakistan [Shehbaz Sharif] went to the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad to personally offer condolences. China has demanded that those responsible for the cowardly attack be punished.

"A day earlier [on March 25], a brave soldier of the Pakistan armed forces was martyred in a terrorist attack on the naval base in Turbat in [Baluchistan province]. The cowardly ambitions of the terrorists could not be fulfilled by the timely and effective response of the security agencies. No one has yet accepted the responsibility for the recent incidents of terrorism, but there is no doubt that the fabric of all such horrific attacks in the past has been linked to extremist elements hiding in Afghanistan.

"The increasing incidents of terrorism in recent days in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, which border Afghanistan, prove that the monster of terrorism is rising again in the troubled areas of Pakistan. A few days ago, I came across a video clip on WhatsApp in which 'missing persons' were found to be involved in terrorism. The issue of missing persons in Pakistan first came to the fore during the reign of General Pervez Musharraf after 9/11 when the United States attacked Afghanistan along with the coalition forces.

"Those with ideological association with the Taliban went to Afghanistan [to fight against American troops], while here [in Pakistan] their families declared them 'missing persons.' Only a few of the thousands of fighters could return home safely; the rest are still missing. [They]... continued to attack Pakistani security agencies. There were many reports that, due to them leaving their family without telling them anything, their grieving families declared them missing and demanded their recovery from the government of Pakistan.

A screenshot of the article in Roznama Jang

"More or less the same situation was seen in the province of Baluchistan, which is adjacent to Afghanistan and Iran, when the Baloch leader [and former chief minister Nawab] Akbar Bugti, who was protesting in the mountains during the reign of General Musharraf, was targeted in a missile attack [by Pakistani military on August 26, 2006].

"After 9/11, attempts were made by international forces to make Baluchistan a part of the Great Game. There were reports in the media that secret agencies of at least three international countries are active in Baluchistan who want to use innocent Baloch citizens to achieve their nefarious purposes. Secessionist military groups began emerging in order to create lawlessness in the province. They started a series of attacks on those coming from outside the province [non-Baluchis employed in the government of Baluchistan or private sector].

"In many tragic incidents, innocent passengers from buses were killed in public because their National Identity Cards had an address outside Baluchistan. The Chinese experts working on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which is indispensable for the country's development and prosperity, also became a target of the wave of terrorism."

"While All Major Political Parties At The National Level Agree With The Position Of The Security Agencies That Are Trying To Defend The Country, That The Case Of 'Missing People' Is A Well-Thought-Out And Organized Conspiracy Against The Forces Of Pakistan To Make Innocent Citizens Hate The Pakistani State"

"When voices started to be raised for the return of the 'missing persons,' some political parties in Baluchistan made this issue a part of their election manifesto. While all major political parties at the national level agree with the position of the security agencies that are trying to defend the country, that the case of 'missing persons 'is a well-thought-out and organized conspiracy against the forces of Pakistan to make innocent citizens hate the Pakistani state and turn the people against the government institutions.

"Many innocent citizens who were proven innocent during the investigation returned home on their own two to three months later. However, the courts also say that to date, not a single missing person has had their case regarding this matter presented in court after their return. Ten years after 9/11, in 2011, a commission was established to investigate the forced disappearances [i.e., the cases of missing persons]. This commission also confirms the claims about the missing persons' return.

"There are still speculations on the issue of missing persons; where did they go? Did they leave the country willingly saddened by domestic conditions? Did they lose themselves to deep oceans harboring dreams of migrating to Europe? Have they fallen into the hands of terrorist organizations? Are they present in [terror] training centers established in neighboring countries [India and Iran]? The involvement of missing persons in various incidents of terrorism in the country is a matter of grave concern.

"A few months ago, during border tensions, the presence of non-Iranian citizens on Iranian soil was also confirmed. No one can deny the fact that the people who are in the custody of the security agencies of our country return after being proved innocent in an investigation. But, regarding those who went out of their own will or fell victim to some external agenda, it is not correct to criticize the security agencies. At this time, our national priorities should be to counter the new wave of terrorism and all patriotic Pakistanis should come together and discourage their propaganda against the country's institutions."

Following are excerpts from Shahnawaz Farooqui's article:[3]

"When The Military Establishment Presents Irrefutable Evidence In The Supreme Court, The Entire Nation Will Accept That The Missing Persons In Baluchistan Are Indeed Working For India; But, Unfortunately, Our Intelligence Agencies Have Not Produced Any Concrete Evidence Against The Missing Persons"

"'Baluchistan's [then] Caretaker Information Minister Jan Achakzai has claimed that no one is missing in Baluchistan and that the march of Baluchis toward Islamabad was to facilitate terrorists. While addressing a news conference in Quetta, Jan Achakzai said that the march from Turbat to Quetta and then from Quetta to Islamabad was carried out as part of planning.

"'He claimed that the participants of the march, who are mentioning the names of Missing Persons, are associated with the Balochistan Liberation Army. These individuals are either getting training from the camps of the banned [terror] organizations or from India. He said that the government cannot give free rein to terrorists. He said that people are being killed on the basis of racial bias in Baluchistan.' – (Roznama Jasarat, Karachi, December 25, 2023).

A screenshot of the article in Roznama Jasarat

"This statement by Jan Achakzai is a blatant lie. Not just two or four, hundreds of people are missing from Baluchistan. The former Emir of Jamaat-e-Islami, Syed Munawar Hasan, told us five years ago that according to his information, 300 women are missing from Baluchistan. But Jan Achakzai insists that no one is missing from Baluchistan.

"This claim too is false because the issue of Missing Persons has reached the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court has acknowledged that numerous people of Baluchistan are missing.  It is possible that among the missing persons in Balochistan, there are people working for India. If this is so, why does our military establishment not present solid evidence against them in the Supreme Court? When the military establishment presents irrefutable evidence in the Supreme Court, the entire nation will accept that the Missing Persons in Baluchistan are indeed working for India. But, unfortunately, our intelligence agencies have not produced any concrete evidence against the Missing Persons.

"From this, it can be assumed that the establishment does not have any solid evidence. As you see, the problem of Missing Persons is tragic from many points of view. The experience of life tells us that the death of loved ones is the bitterest experience for human beings, but in any case, a person cries over the dead for a few days and becomes silent because he develops patience [because there is closure]."

"One Proof Of The Disappearance Of Islam In The Islamic Republic Of Pakistan Is That The Country's Constitution Is Islamic, But The Rulers Have Made The Country's Constitution A Prison For Islam; They Do Not Allow Islam To Escape The Constitution And Become Effective"

"However, the issue of Missing Persons is that they are neither among the living nor among the dead. Therefore, thousands of their relatives are going through the experience of hell in this world itself; they do not know that the Missing Persons are dead, nor do they know that they are alive. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country, but it is also unable to fulfill the requirements of justice in this regard.

"Because like the nation, the Supreme Court is helpless before the powerful military establishment. If seen in this context, what John Achakzai has said is nothing but nonsense. The fact is that military generals and politicians birthed by them have made every precious thing of Pakistan missing.

"Pakistan did not come into existence in a vacuum; it was created by an ideology. This ideology was Islam, but the Pakistani generals and politicians birthed by them have made Islam go missing from the state system of Pakistan. It is unthinkable that socialism can be removed from a socialist society or that secularism can be made missing in a secular society.

"But General Ayub [Khan, the military ruler and president from 1958 to 1969] worked to make secularism predominant in Pakistan which had come into existence in the name of Islam. He conspired through [noted Islamic academic] Dr. Fazlur Rahman to declare usury as fully compliant with Islam. He imposed family laws on Islamic society that were against the principles of Islam.

"Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was a 'product' of General Ayub. He loved General Ayub so much that he called him Daddy. He tried to make the country secular and liberal. During his time, there was so much nudity and obscenity on [Pakistani television channel] PTV that it cannot be imagined in any Islamic country. Mr. Bhutto openly said in a gathering that [he] drinks alcohol but does not drink anyone's blood. Although this too was a lie because Bhutto was accused of having many people murdered.

"General Pervez Musharraf was secular and liberal and he made every possible effort to make the country secular and liberal. One proof of the disappearance of Islam in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is that the country's constitution is Islamic, but the rulers have made the country's constitution a prison for Islam. They do not allow Islam to escape the constitution and become effective. Look at the politics of Pakistan, there is no Islam in it."

"The Military Establishment Has Made Political And Journalistic Freedom Go Missing Since 1958; So, The Political System Of Pakistan Is A Deception"; "If You Look Above The Establishment, There Is America; And America Too Has Made Our Independence Go Missing; If America Wants, Martial Law Is Imposed In The Country; If America Wishes, Democracy Is Restored In The Country"

"Look at Pakistan's economy, Islam has no involvement in it. Islam is also absent from the judicial system of Pakistan. Even in Pakistan's education system, Islam is present only in the form of teaching Islamic studies. Otherwise, dozens of subjects are taught in our schools, colleges and universities which have a secular and liberal perspective.

"If we look carefully, 'independence' seems to be lost from the independent Pakistan. It has been 75 years since the country became independent [in 1947], but our politics is under the control of feudal lords and influential figures. These feudal lords and influential figures have made the nation's political freedom go missing.

"Pakistan's military establishment has, over the past 60 years, created an army of 'electables.' These electables are the kings of politics. When these electables are given [by the military establishment] to Mian Nawaz Sharif, then he becomes the prime minister. If these electables are handed over to Imran Khan, then he is declared prime minister. If you look above the feudal lords, influential figures, and electables, the military establishment is present there.

Map courtesy: Encyclopedia Britannica

"The military establishment has made political and journalistic freedom go missing since 1958. So, the political system of Pakistan is a deception. It is a delusion. Pakistan's democracy is a fraud. If the establishment wants, Nawaz Sharif becomes the chief executive. If the establishment desires, then Imran Khan becomes entitled to the prime ministership.

"If you look above the establishment, there is America; and America too has made our independence go missing. If America wants, martial law is imposed in the country. If America wishes, democracy is restored in the country. America has not only made our political independence go missing, it has also made our economic independence go missing. We cannot even make our own budget according to our own will now. The International Monetary Fund tells us how much tax to impose and which areas to cut down on spending.

"Unfortunately, Pakistan is a country whose military generals suddenly made half of Pakistan go missing one day. Until December 15, 1971, the Pakistan created by Quaid-e-Azam [Great Leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah] existed in the world; but when the sun rose on December 16, 1971, half of Pakistan had disappeared from the pages of history, and Bangladesh had emerged. The story of missing half of Pakistan is painful."

"From 1947 To 1960, The Rulers Of Pakistan Did Not Allow The Majority Of The Country's Population, The Bengalis, To Join The Army"; "Pakistan's Generals And The Politicians Birthed By Them Have Made Pakistan A Laptastan In All Respects"

"From 1947 to 1960, the rulers of Pakistan did not allow the majority of the country's population, the Bengalis, to join the army. After 1960, when Bengalis joined the army, their number was only eight to ten percent, although they were 56 percent of the population. The presence of Bengalis in the bureaucracy was four to six percent even though Bengalis constituted 56 percent of the population.

"When elections were held in 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Awami League won a clear majority. The situation demanded that power be handed over to Sheikh Mujib, but instead of doing so, General Yahya Khan initiated a military operation against the Bengalis. When the situation worsened [and Bengali refugees began arriving in India], India got an opportunity to intervene [leading to the 1971 war].

"But General [Amir Abdullah Khan] Niazi said that India can enter Dhaka only by passing his dead body. A few days before the fall of Dhaka, General Yahya [Khan, who ruled from 1969 to 1971], while addressing the nation, said that the country's defense is in strong hands. But when December 16, 1971, arrived, Indian forces were entering Dhaka, and General Niazi, with 93,000 troops, was surrendering weapons before India, and making half of Pakistan go missing.

"Unfortunately, the condition of the remaining Pakistan is also miserable. Education is missing for forty percent of the country's population. Clean water is missing for seventy percent of the country's population. If 70 percent of the country's population falls ill, there is no specialist doctor to attend to them, which means that 70 percent of the people lack treatment facilities.

"If all of Pakistan earns 100 rupees, Karachi gives 70 to Pakistan. But despite this, half of Karachi is deprived of water. Adequate transport facilities are not provided to all of Karachi. Even the garbage of Karachi is not picked up. That is, water, transport, and garbage collection facilities in Karachi are missing. Seen in this context, Pakistan's generals and the politicians birthed by them have made Pakistan a Laptastan in all respects."


[2] Roznama Jang (Pakistan), March 28, 2024.

[3] Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), January 5, 2024.

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