Allegations against Armed Forces regarding missing persons
By S. M. Hali
There is a Chanakyan maxim that: “tell a lie so often it appears to be the truth”. The same appears to be the case with the missing persons in Pakistan. So many different agencies are involved in the imbroglio that it is getting difficult to separate the truth from false allegations. Amidst the entire hullabaloo, the Armed Forces have become a favourite target. Various charges have been leveled against the armed forces ever since General Kayani decided to pull back the military to its constitutional role only. The military takeovers of the past have left such a bad taste in the public eye that they are willing to believe anything negative pertaining to the armed forces, even if it is based on good intentions. The people recall the totalitarian regimes of Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, Zia-ul-Haq and Parvez Musharraf with such disdain that they are willing to swallow even mistruths against the armed forces, if it puts them in bad light.
The case of the missing persons is a case in point. It appears to have been over projected using slanted reasoning with the rationale of political designs coupled with twisting of the truth by enemies of the state. The misfortune is that a section of the local media pays heed to allegations leveled by dissident groups to cover their own nefarious activities by blaming the Pakistan Army, Intelligence Agencies and the Frontier Constabulary (FC) for illegally picking up Baloch nationals, torturing or killing them. The truth couldn’t be farther than these wild allegations but so intense is their propagation and so oft repeated the lie that in light of the Chanakyan maxim quoted above, gullible recipients tend to find the lies palatable. The concocted stories are even painted with graphic details of coercion, use of brute force and psychological indoctrination to make them credible. The fact is that this is a classic case of psyching the international opinion, general public and the media in losing confidence against the custodians of Pakistan, the Armed Forces, the Security Agencies and the FC. This would pave the way for the achieving their nefarious designs of destabilizing Pakistan. The dissemination of propaganda against Pakistan Army and its associated organizations includes psychological techniques of over simplification, employing powerful assertions, sweeping statements, use of half truths, misquoted references and emotional appeal to obtain the sympathy and stark attention of the target audience, which includes the masses. Thus fake stories of missing persons, coupled with the desperate plight of the affected families with glaring images of desperate children, dependant old parents and harassed spouses are used to highlight the gory ordeal.
There is no denying the fact that any family, whose even a single member is missing and no whereabouts are known, sometimes for weeks, months and even years must be passing through a life of living hell. However, blaming the Pakistan Army or its allied agencies for the disappearance is equally reprehensible, especially when the issue is further projected through electronic and social media, in which serious allegations are leveled against the Armed Forces regarding the missing persons without providing a shred of evidence.
Recently, speakers at a seminar organized at the Quetta Press Club condemned the recovery of decomposed bodies of missing persons not only blamed the Armed Forces but also termed the Balochistan struggle as a tragedy. They also claimed that more than 14,000 people had gone missing and now their bodies are being disposed in this insalubrious manner.
This seminar was highlighted with fiery speeches creating bad blood against the Pakistan Army and painting them as the enemies of the state. Unfortunately, no member of the Armed Forces was present to defend its good name or refute the blatant allegations.
The media allegations against Pakistan Army, Military Intelligence (MI), Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and FC regarding the missing persons has reached such a crescendo that all and sundry have started believing in it. To make matters worse, international organizations, including the US and British Parliament have also started voicing concern and even calling for sanctions against the state of Pakistan and its Armed Forces, lending credence to the uncalled for propaganda. Meanwhile enemies of the state, who in some probability are responsible for the disappearance of some persons if not all, are sitting back comfortably and letting the Armed Forces take the blame for their dastardly deeds. It is no hidden secret that a reprehensible group of miscreants have taken up the cudgel wrongly to single out non-Balochis settled in the province of Balochistan for decades and harass them into migrating to other provinces or face slaughter. Simultaneously, the Hazaras and other minority ethnic groups have been targeted blatantly, killing them indiscriminately or kidnapping them for ransom. The aim is twofold, firstly to create a law and order situation and secondly to lay the blame squarely on the Armed Forces, forcing them to come under pressure. The Pakistan Army was initially asked to step back in the province of Balochistan so it let the FC take the lead in apprehending miscreants and wrongdoers but now the same wrongdoers, who are negotiating for “peace”, are demanding that even the FC be called off so that they have a field day in indulging in whatever lawlessness they desire. The case of the missing persons needs to be studied dispassionately. The families of the missing persons need a closure but it is unfortunate that some of the missing persons belong to terrorist organizations while others were involved in anti-state activities under the influence of separatists. It is unfair to target the Law Enforcing Agencies since they are maintaining law and order in the province at the behest and operating under the legitimate civilian authority of the Chief Minister of the Province as well as the provincial and federal ministries of Interior. It is high time that a political process is commenced to address the legitimate demands and grievances of the disgruntled element, making an effort to accommodate their genuine socio-economic needs.
A common grouse of the average Balochi is the corruption of its provincial leadership, including the elected members of the provincial assembly, who have allegedly gobbled up the development funds allocated for the betterment of the life of the common Balochi. Accountability across the board is the need of the hour and responsibility for the plight of the common Balochi remaining submerged in the quagmire of poverty and deprivation should not be passed on to the Armed Forces. It is high time genuine facts are brought to light regarding the missing persons' issue.