Imran Khan gives blank assurances to Baloch ‘missing’ families

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Family and friends of Baloch Missing Persons during their February sit-in at D-Chowk in Islamabad. (Photo: News Intervention)
Family and friends of Baloch Missing Persons during their February sit-in at D-Chowk in Islamabad. (Photo: News Intervention)

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan recently met with a three-member representative committee of the families of Baloch missing persons in Islamabad. On the face of it Imran Khan asked his ministers to ascertain the status of missing persons and assured the family members that they will be kept informed on the matter. He also promised to criminalize enforced disappearances. The Baloch families, however, said that Imran Khan only gave them blank assurances and promises, and nothing else.

According to the details, a three-member representative committee of the families of Baloch missing persons who staged a week-long sit-in at D-Chowk in federal capital Islamabad in February met the Pakistani Prime Minister. The committee comprised of Nasrullah Baloch, Sammi Deen Baloch and Seema Baloch, three of the most active voices in the struggle to end enforced disappearances in Balochistan.

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Pakistan’s Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari was also present in the meeting along with the Minister for Defense Production Zubaida Jalal.

Mazari shared some of the details of the meeting on social media, saying that the PM Imran Khan directed the Principal Secretary to “ascertain quickly the exact status of the missing family members.” He also assured the family members that they will be kept informed about the status of their loved ones.

Khan also told the representative committee that the bill to criminalize enforced disappearances will be “fast-tracked” and the relevant laws will be amended. He also asked about being informed about the whereabouts of the missing persons. 

On the other hand, the families of the Baloch missing persons were not quite satisfied with the meeting with the Pakistani PM. They said that the prime minister gave them assurance and promises and nothing more. They said that they have handed over the list of the missing persons of Balochistan to Khan.

According to the family members, Khan told them that the government is taking the issue of enforced disappearance seriously and is committed to working “sincerely” on the issue. He also assured them that he will summon the Pakistan Army chief and the ISI chief to ensure the recovery of the Baloch missing persons.

Sammi Deen Baloch, one of the three members of the committee, said on social media that the families of the Baloch missing persons had ended their sit-in protest in Islamabad after the assurance that the prime minister will inform them about the condition of their loved ones in the meeting, but that did not happen. 

Seema Baloch, another member of the committee, said on Twitter that they had gone to the meeting with the hopes of countless Baloch families on their shoulders, but were “saddened” to learn that they were only given promises and assurances and nothing more. “We once again presented the list of Baloch missing persons [to the PM],” she said.

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In the month of February, the families of Baloch missing persons held a week-long sit-in protest in the federal capital Islamabad, demanding the release of their loved ones and an end to enforced disappearances in Balochistan. The families had asked the Pakistani prime minister to personally visit and assure them that their demands will be met, otherwise they would not end their protest.

Several prominent politicians and human rights activists visited the protestors in Islamabad. PTM leaders Manzoor Pashteen, Mohsin Dawar and Afrasiab Khattak visited the families to express solidarity with them. Members of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, including PML-N Vice-President Maryam Nawaz also visited the protestors to share their grief. Interior Minister of Pakistan Sheikh Rasheed also met with the protestors and requested them to end the protest, but the protestors remained undeterred.

The Pakistani Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari met with the Baloch families and conveyed a message from Imran Khan that he will personally meet with the protestors in March. With this promise, the Baloch families ended their protest and returned home, waiting for the time to meet with the prime minister.

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