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Agony, anguish and angst

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

by Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

The ‘day of disappeared persons’ is not commemorated to remind the disappeared persons’ families and friends because they never forget their loved ones; it is to remind deviant states that disappear people, of their moral and legal obligations

The International Day of the Disappeared, commemorated on August 30 every year, coincided with Eid-ul-Fitr and made the agony, anguish and angst of the disappeared persons’ suffering families even more emotionally heartrending because Eid is meant to bring happiness and cheer. Happiness and hope are alien for those whose near and dear ones are missing or whose missing ones have turned up as brutally tortured bodies with a note serving identification purposes and delivering dire warning to those who dare to tread the path of defying the will of the state as expressed by the army and the Frontier Corps (FC).

The scourge of disappeared persons blighted Latin America for a long time and, consequently, this day came to be commemorated after initiatives from the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared, a non-governmental organisation founded in 1981 in Costa Rica as an association of local and regional groups actively working against secret imprisonment and forced disappearances in Latin American countries.

The UN General Assembly adopted resolution 47/133 as the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance on December 18, 1992. Needless to say, disappearing or killing disappeared people, which is now the norm in Balochistan, is a grave and criminal violation of human rights.

In the past and present tapestry of human rights abuses in Balochistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Chhattisgarh, Chile, Southern Sudan, East Timor, Kosovo, Guatemala, Colombia, Palestine, etc, the prominently dominant colour is that of economic interests of corporations and the state, combined with the delusional and false pride of states over borders and accidental possessions superseding the people’s rights.

Dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera ruled Guatemala from 1898 to 1920 with support from the United Fruit Company, a powerful US-based company. In 1944, a military junta led by Arana, Arbenz and Jorge Toriello Garrido ousted dictator General Juan Federico Ponce Vaides and held free elections, which Juan José Arévalo Bermejo, a prominent writer and teacher who spent 14 years in exile in Argentina, won with a majority of 85 percent. His people-friendly policies were labelled as being ‘communist’-inspired by the landowners and upper classes. In 1954, his freely elected successor, Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, was overthrown in a coup d’état orchestrated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). This resulted in a long era of human rights abuses there and in other Latin American countries. Disappearances were rampant in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s under US-sponsored dictatorships. They ensured that plunder by American corporations and the local elite remained unchallenged. These disappearances targeted all possible challengers including political activists, indigenous people and priests. The priests, voicing concern over injustices and inequality, had advocated ‘liberation theology’ for the economic, social and political rights of the Latin American people.

Dictators like General Augusto Pinochet exclusively protected the interests of corporations and the upper classes and let loose a reign of terror in Chile after ousting Salvador Allende. Recently, the Chilean Commission, headed by Maria Luisa Sepulveda, investigating human rights abuses under Pinochet, identified another 9,800 people who had been held as political prisoners and tortured. The new figures bring the total of recognised victims to 40,018, and the official number of those killed or forcibly disappeared now stands at 3,065. The victims and their families see hope of closure of their state-inflicted traumas.

It is futile to expect a commission here to uncover and punish the culprits responsible for the suffering of people in Bangladesh or Balochistan because the ‘establishment’ and the mainstream media here suffer from ‘selective amnesia’ or ‘intentional ignorance’. On August 30, pictures of Kashmiri protests for missing persons were printed in newspapers here — India’s dirty war in Kashmir is abhorrent, but the fact that thousands are missing here and hundreds of brutally tortured bodies have turned up in Balochistan was expediently forgotten. Intentional ignorance as a policy is officially sanctioned and promoted here. The Indian media too must have mostly highlighted the disappearances here.

In Balochistan and Kashmir, the state’s economic interests and false sense of pride in possessing real estate make for a deadly combination, exacerbating the people’s suffering and resulting in unparalleled angst, anguish and agony. Pakistan and India, unwilling to accept Baloch and Kashmiri national rights, brutalise people in the same way that Turkey brutalises the Kurds and Iran the Baloch.

The ‘day of disappeared persons’ is not commemorated to remind the disappeared persons’ families and friends because they never forget their loved ones; it is to remind deviant states that disappear people, of their moral and legal obligations. Unsurprisingly, the states that remorselessly disappear people do not heed exhortations to act humanely towards dissidents. States employing terror as a considered policy care not a whit for laws, conventions and moral obligations.

Learning their lessons of tactics of human rights abuses from Latin America, the state, the army and vested interests have unleashed death squads in Balochistan and have entrusted them with the task of supplementing them in eliminating people who demand national rights. Disappearing people could not solve the problems of Latin American dictators or elsewhere. The tactic of disappearing people in Balochistan compounded with extra-judicial killings has only aggravated the situation there instead of ameliorating it but the establishment recklessly continues to practice it. The list of disappeared people here is long and not restricted to Balochistan only, though Balochistan has suffered the most and continues to suffer. The anguish and pain of the relatives of the disappeared persons never ever wanes; every new day renews the old pain. Time neither dulls hope nor pain.

Mrs Balwant Dass, the nearly 90-year-old wife of late Air Commodore (retd) Mr Balwant Dass, whose son, my friend and comrade in arms, Johnny (Duleep) Dass, while on his way to Karachi with Sher Ali Marri, disappeared after being apprehended by the army near Temple Dera in 1975, nearly four decades on still hopes that he may be alive somewhere. The pain simply is never erased. Many Baloch were disappeared before and during the 1973-77 insurgency and many more in the recent struggle but there has been no closure to the ordeal of their families. Moreover, the Pakistani state remorselessly disappears people and has the temerity to accuse organisations that expose its brutality of abetting the insurgency. The suffering families want closure of their ordeal but certainly not in the abominable way of dumping murdered abducted persons on roadsides that the Pakistani state has chosen.

Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com


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