QUETTA - The UN fact finding mission Saturday arrived in the provincial capital to review complaints of enforced disappearances in Balochistan and met with government officials and representatives and relatives of the missing persons.

Hundreds of family members of Baloch missing persons from across the province also staged a sit-in outside a local hotel, where the visiting delegates of the United Nations were staying, to seek their attention towards the human rights abuses in Balochistan.

The UN working group comprising Olivier de Frouville, the Chair-Rapporteur, and Osman EI Hajji met Balochistan Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad and Home Secretary Nasebullah Bazai at the Civil Secretariat.

Official sources said the chief secretary informed the delegation that there was contradiction in the number of missing persons. He said according to the government institutions the number of missing persons was near 80, of which they had already recovered 53.

He told that government had taken up this issue seriously while the issue of missing persons was also under hearing at the Supreme Court. He said the Home Department has also established a cell and appealed the representatives of missing persons to register the documents of their missing relatives, but they have not cooperated satisfactorily in this regard.

The UN working group later moved to a local hotel where they met with the representatives of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Balochistan National Party (Awami), Hazara Democratic Party (HDP). Relatives of more than 100 missing persons, including women and children, also met with the group individually.

VBMP Chairperson Nasarullah Baloch appreciated the UN working group for taking such an initiative for the Baloch missing persons. “We provided them two lists of missing persons. The first included 1,341 people whose data was complete while another list of 940 people whose list was not complete,” he said.

Talking to media after calling on the UN working group, Zahoor Ahmed Shahwani, the president of Balochistan High Court Bar Association and a renowned human rights activist, said that he had informed the group that they had lodged two petitions in the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the missing person, one in 2007 and the second in 2010, in which they had given the names of 150 missing persons.

“We informed them that the petition was still pending in the court... We also told them that some of the parties say that the number of the missing persons is more than 12,000 while some others claim that 14,000 persons were missing,” Zahoor Shahwani said, adding, “We provided them a list of 130 people.”

He said that he told the commission that the figures of the missing persons may be conflicting but one thing was clear that it was too high. “We kept three main things before the UN working group: the issue of missing persons, target killings and the spiralling acts of kidnap for ransom,” he added. Zahoor said that he had informed the UN team that the constitution of Pakistan provided protection to every citizen which was not acted upon.

“I also quoted to them the article 9 of the constitution which says that no individual shall be deprived of his right to life,” he said, adding that he also quoted the reference of an international UN convention 1992, of which Pakistan is a signatory, that it would make all endeavours to protect the right to life of its citizens.

BRP leader Dr Azeem Basheer said they had provided a list of 12 to 14 thousand people to the UN working group which was jointly prepared by his party, Balochistan National Movement (BNM) and Baloch Students Organisation (Azad). He said that they told the UN panel that the number of those killed was 4,262 and they handed them complete data of 2,652 of them.

When asked how he could prove the whereabouts of 14,000 people, he said, “There are number of no-go areas in Balochistan where nobody has access and people were missing from those places. We know them but the state functionaries sometimes say that they have left for Afghanistan or other places. The state should know where its citizens are or how they left the country. To us, they all are missing.”

Bostan, a representative of the Hazara Democratic Party (HDP), who had called on UN working group said, “We informed them that more than 700 hundred persons of our community had been killed and more than 2,000 were injured in targeted killings.” He said, “We appealed the UN delegation to get the genocide of Hazaras in Balochistan stopped.”

While the UN group was meeting the representatives of different parties and human rights organisations, the relatives of the missing persons, including women and children, staged a protest demonstration outside the Quetta Press Club and rallied to the local hotel where the delegation was holding meetings with and they staged a sit-in there for several hours. They were carrying banners and placards inscribed with slogans such as “stop Baloch genocide”, “stop killing intellectuals” and appeals to international organisations for taking notice of the situation.

A relative of Sami Baloch, who has been missing for the last couple of years, told The Nation that Sami was innocent and a brilliant student in University of Balochistan who was “picked up” by state functionaries. “His mistake was only that he was raising voice politically against injustices with Balochistan but he was whisked away and was still missing,” he said, adding that “we appealed UN for exerting pressure on government for safe and early recovery of the missing persons”.

Sikander Shaheen from Islamabad adds: Immediately after arriving in Quetta, the UN team had reportedly approached Frontier Corps Balochistan Inspector General Major General Obaidullah Khattak through the FC’s Spokesperson Murtaza Baig with a ‘renewed’ request for a meeting appointment, which was reportedly declined straightway.

FC Balochistan Spokesperson Murtaza Baig however expressed ignorance about the UN delegation’s request, citing weekly holiday and refused to comment any further. “No comments. Today is our weekly holiday so I’m not in knowledge of anything that happened today,” he said when approached. But the UN officials quoted Baig as having conveyed to the Working Group members earlier that the FC IG was “very busy these days and we would get back to you in case General Sahib agrees for a meeting”.

Talking to The Nation, Talal Bugti confirmed having been approached by the WGEID delegates for a meeting in connection with the missing persons’ issue. “I’ll be more than happy to meet them. It’s time to tell the world that the state machinery in Balochistan; the FC and military intelligence agencies, are behind the kidnappings and killings of civilians. Balochistan is on fire lit by former dictator Musharraf. It is in state of war now. The international community and foreign powers have to play their role to stop bloodshed in Balochistan,” Bugti said.

Ali Ahmed Kurd advocate said that he was willing to meet the UN delegation if so requested. “I haven’t been contacted as yet but I’ll meet them if they need my help on the missing persons’ issue. This issue has become a serious problem in Balochistan. Abductions and killings of civilians should be stopped and culprits behind this melodrama should be taken to task, whether they are military intelligence people or anti-state elements,” he said.