CTD killing missing persons in fake encounters

The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) gunned down five people on the outskirt of Quetta city, the capital of Balochistan, on July 06. In a statement, it said that law enforcement agencies were conducting a security operation when they came under attack. In retaliation, the CTD claims, five terrorists were killed, adding that the bodies of the militants were shifted to a local hospital for identification.

One of them was identified as Qudratullah, a resident of Kharan district of Balochistan, who was registered with the Human Rights Council of Balochistan as a missing person. He was abducted and disappeared on March 23, 2021. Security forces whisked him away from his hometown Kharan during a raid and he was kept incommunicado despite several requests and appeals from his family.

This is not the first incident in which the CTD has killed previously missing persons in fake encounters.

The CTD was first introduced in 2010 after revamping the Crime Investigation Department, another police department. But the CTD soon gained a reputation as an encounter specialist squad due to the sheer number of fake encounters it carried out in the province. This year alone, the CTD has killed at least 14 people in Balochistan, 11 of whom were identified so far had already been registered as disappeared persons, all of whom abducted by personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies.

On January 18th, 2021, the Eagle Force of Balochistan, claimed during a press conference that they had arrested Jameel Pirkani and Sami Pirkani having found two hand grenades in their possession. Officials claimed that both the detainees were handed over to the CTD. The two detainees were cousins.

On March 07, 2021, the CTD claimed to have five Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) members killed in a shootout near Mastung, on the outskirts of Quetta, Balochistan. The five “alleged terrorist” were identified as Sami Pirkani, Jameel Pirkani, Arif Marri, Yousuf Marri and Shah Nazar. After investigation, it was found that not only Sami Pirkani and Jameel Pirkani but the other three also had been  in the custody of the security forces and had been registered as enforced disappeared persons on the dates of their disappearances.

Yousuf Marri was arrested by security forces from Sibbi on November 27, 2020, whereas Arif Marri was detained from his shop in Hazar Ganji, Quetta, on February 28, 2021. Similarly, Shah Nazar was also forcibly disappeared.

On June 18, 2021, the CTD claimed to kill four “terrorists” during a search operation in Marwadh, Balochistan. The alleged terrorists were identified as Ali Baig s/o Dhai, Murad Khan s/o Nihal Khan Mazarani Marri, Khairo s/o Shah Meer and Murad Bakhsh s/o Noor Khan. All four of them were enforced disappeared persons who were abducted by forces from different areas on different dates.

According to the details, security forces raided Ali Baig’s home during a military operation in March 2021 and detained his brother and two sons. Later, a Frontier Corps Colonel asked Ali Baig and another person Jamal Khan s/o Nazar Mohammad to appear before him in return of safe release of their loved ones. They had no option but to oblige but when they went to see the colonel, both of them were detained and remained missing since then.  Ali Baig was shot dead by the CTD on June 19 while Jamal Khan’s whereabouts have been unknown since then.

Similarly, Murad Khan was forcibly disappeared by security forces two years ago from his home in Jattak Stop, Quetta, whereas Khairo was abducted in March 2021 during a military operation from Kahan area of Balochistan. Murad Bakhsh s/o Noor Khan was also forcibly disappeared by forces during an operation from Shahrag area of Balochistan in November 2018.Moreover, CTD officials have been registering fake cases against previously disappeared persons.

Sanaullah Syapad was an M.Phil student at Allama Iqbal Open University and was presiding a literary society, Naseer Kubdani Labzanki Diwan, in his hometown, Kharan district of Balochistan. On May 12, 2020, Frontier Corps personnel detained him in front of several eye witnesses from his hometown Kharan. For the next 5 months, no one heard of him until on December 8, 2020, when the CTD filed a First Information Report and claimed that he was arrested at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with ammunition in his possession.

The FIR was filed by a CTD officer Mohammad Ashraf while Sub Inspector Abdullah and Mohammad Malik are mentioned as eye witnesses and officers who were present at the time of arrest.

Similarly, Muslim Ali was whisked away from Gwadar during a raid on October 12, 2017. At the time of his arrest, Muslim was 14 years old and a student of Oasis School Gwadar. For more than three years, he was kept incommunicado at an unknown location. On March 11, 2021, Sub Inspector Abdullah of the CTD filed an FIR claiming to arrest Muslim Ali from Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The officer claimed that they found ammunition and explosives in his possession. Sub Inspector Mohammad Malik was again mentioned as the eye witness and officer present at the time of his arrest.

Recently, another victim of enforced disappearances, Gul Sher, was brought to Chaman Jail after three years of his disappearance. He was abducted by the Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies from his home in Singani Sar area of Turbat city in 2018.

The authorities, including law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system, have long failed to demonstrate the political will to end enforced disappearances. The bill to criminalize enforced disappearances had been strangulated in between ministries since 2019 when it was first drafted but recently introduced to National Assembly. It offered a glimmer of hope to the victims’ families but framing victims in fake cases and mercilessly killing them in fake encounters signals the real intention of the authorities in this regard.

To end this illegal practice, the authorities must investigate the above-mentioned cases, and persecute those responsible, to prevent human rights violations in the future.