An estimated 30,000 people from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have been subjected to enforced disappearances in the past ten years.
At least four rights activists from southwestern Balochistan province in Pakistan have been found dead in various places in the last four days. All four died under mysterious circumstances in separate incidents. Among them, two student-activists, Shahdad Balouch and Ihsan Balouch, were killed in Kelat a town in Balochistan on May 3. Earlier, on May 1, a gunman in Wana a town in Waziristan fatally attacked senior leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, Arif Wazir. In another incident, activist-journalist Sajid Hussain’s body was found in a river in Sweden on May 1 after having gone missing two months ago.
In the case of Shahdad and Ihsan, students of Quaid-e-Azam University, following their deaths mainstream media alleged that they had taken up arms against the Pakistani state. Both had been involved in student-related activism for several years, and had strong criticisms against the government. They had also sharply condemned state authorities for the continued exploitation of the natural resources of Balochistan. Their dead bodies were recovered in Kelat district after an army ambush in the region.
Meanwhile, three more students, Shabbir, Zakir and Zahid, remain reportedly missing in the province. While the details of their disappearances have not led to a clear picture of who is involved, there are accusations hinting towards the role of state intelligence agencies, which have a shady reputation of being involved in and perpetrating mass disappearances. As many as 30,000 people from the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have been subjected to enforced disappearances in the past ten years, as per local estimates.
The dead body of 39-year-old human rights activist and the founder of Balochistan Times, Sajjad Hussain, was recovered from a river in Sweden on May 1 after having gone missing on March 2. Hussain fled Pakistan in 2012 after receiving death threats for reporting on critical issues in Balochistan, including on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, drug trafficking and enforced disappearances in the region. Regarding his suspicious death, Reporters Without Borders said that “it could not be ruled out that he had been abducted and killed at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency.”
On May 1, Arif Wazir, a leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement (PTM) in Pakistan, died in a hospital in Islamabad. He had been attacked by unidentified gunmen in the town of Wana in the South Waziristan agency of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Leaders of the PTM alleged that state-sponsored militants were involved in the murder. PTM has said that these assaults will not kill the spirit of the persecuted Pashtun community who will continue fighting for their rights.
According to blogger Hurmat Ali Shah, “Sajid Hussain, Shahdad Baloch and Ihsan Baloch will one day be added to the long list of anonymous martyrs, who although [they] are alive in the political imagination of Baloch politics, but don’t matter to the mainstream consciousness. For that matter, Arman Luni, Arif Wazir, the martyrs of Khar Qamar massacre, also feature nowhere in the national political or social consciousness of mainstream Pakistan. Where will they all live? They must live in politics of resistance,” he wrote.