The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that a man who went missing nine months ago near Karachi has resurfaced this month in the custody of the Frontier Corp (FC).
The man’s name has featured in various a government-issued lists of disappeared persons, yet in a press conference on 27 March 2010 FC representatives produced him as a recent arrestee, who had been caught crossing the border from Afghanistan in to Balochistan carrying explosives, and foreign currencies and SIM cards. They have proceeded to charge him with the murder of six Chinese engineers.seen pictured here along with a press statement made by the victims mother on 28 March 2010).
Four relatives who went to visit him in detention were arbitrarily arrested and kept in a police station by the FC for three days.
According to information received from the Voice of Balochistan – an NGO for missing persons – and the victim’s family, Mr. Murad Khan Marri, 45, was arrested by uniformed and plain clothed persons near the Aachar Hotel in Hub Chowki, Balochistan on 27 June 2009.
On Sakran Road he was seen being loaded into a red Toyota that had no number plate. The next day his son went to file a case at the Hub Chowki police station with other relatives, where the police reportedly refused to comply and denied Murri’s arrest.
After other attempts to file the case with the police failed, the victim’s mother Mrs. Nazi filed a constitutional petition in the High Court of Balochistan on 17 August 2009. The petition made allegations of arbitrary arrest, and challenged the ministry of interior in Islamabad, military intelligence agencies, the commander of the ISI and of the Federal Investigation unit (FIU), and the government of Balochistan, through the ministry of interior and the FC. Military intelligence and government representatives denied that Marri was in their custody and the petition is pending in the high court before the Chief Justice of Balochistan.
While hearing petitions on disappearances in January the Supreme Court ordered the police to allow families of the disappeared to file their complaints. After further obstacles we are told that Mrs Nazi was able to file an FIR for Marri’s disappearance on 10 February at the HITE (Hub Industrial and Trading Estate) police station, which is near the area of his abduction. Police have yet to launch an investigation.
Marri’s name has since appeared in various lists of missing persons, including the latest list (of 65 persons) issued by National Crises Management Cell of the government, and in a Balochistan list of the disappeared (at No. 1060,
However on 27 March Marri was produced at a press conference, called by Colonel Asad Shehzad Khatak of the FC. The colonel claimed that Marri was captured crossing the Afghan border illegally while carrying Indian rupees, explosives and a number of cell phones bearing SIM cards from of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. He claimed that Marri has confessed to involvement in the murder of six Chinese engineers as an active member of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
The detainee’s family report that he looked thin, unwell and scared; journalists noted that he was not able to walk properly and appeared to be in pain. He was not allowed to speak with them. The situation bears strong signs of illegal detention and torture among other violations, and the AHRC is extremely doubtful that he will be given a fair trial.
Disappearances have become endemic in Balochistan, even after military offensives were suspended in 2008 by the current government. The list of the missing maintained by the NCMC shows that 65 persons have disappeared since the civilian government took power, when law and order was largely handed to the FC. The AHRC has reported many of these cases, including UAC-041-2009 http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2009/3145/, in which three political activists were arrested by the FC from the office of a lawyer and days later, were found brutalized and murdered in a remote area; a year on, no one has been held to account for their deaths.
In Balochistan the hallmarks of such arbitrary arrests are plain clothed persons in red or white Toyotas without number plates.
In July 2009 during a meeting with the Indian PM in Egypt, the Pakistan PM announced its conviction that India is involved in the Balochistan independence movement, something it has often hinted.
Many of the recent disappearances and false arrests appear to be linked to the increased pressure felt by law enforcement agents to provide evidence to support this claim.
Please read more about the issue – from the uncovering of secret torture cells to violations committed against the Baloch student population – in our statements, such as STM-157-2009, STM-019-2010 and STM-158-2008
A few days later, he has again disappeared while in the custody of FC.
After his arrest, he was lodged at Saddar police station, Chaman city for further investigation without being produced before any court as claimed by his lawyer, Agha Zahid. His lawyer says that Marri was not found in the police station and his whereabouts are unknown. He was neither found in the prison of Chaman district. There is every possibility that he may have been kept incommunicado for the purpose of extracting a confessional statement from him using torture.
The FC is active in the province where there is a strong nationalist movement for autonomy of the province. The province was under military action several times since the creation of Pakistan. During the eight years of the rule of former president General Musharraf, the province was continuously under military operations and hundreds of people were made to disappear by the state intelligence agencies, soon after their arrest. The persons, who remained missing for months, when released, claimed that they were kept in different military torture cells to confess that they were on the run or belonged to the Balochistan Liberation Army, an organization banned by the military government.
After the formation of the civilian set-up, the government announced the withdrawal of military operation and handed over the law and order situation of the province to the FC, which is a Para military force. Immediately after the FC took control, three political activists were abducted by the plainclothes men and three days later, their mutilated bodies were found. These three persons were members of the committee which was probing the cases of disappearances. These persons also went missing for many months and were kept in different military torture cells.
The re-disappearance of Murad Marri is alarming. This shows that law enforcement authorities in the province are taking the law in their hands. They do not produce the accused persons before the court of law within 24 hours of their arrest, which is legally mandatory.
As defined in the Preamble of the Declaration of the UN working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances (WGEID), enforced disappearances occur when persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.
The case of Murad Marri is a clear violation of UN Charter and various Conventions pertaining to the freedom of individuals and their inalienable rights. The government should take immediate action on the re-disappearance of Murad Marri; get his release from the law enforcement authorities and initiate an enquiry into cases where arrested persons are kept incommunicado for extracting confessional statements. It is feared by the family of Murad Marri that he must be going through severe kind of torture and that he would be killed in an encounter. Therefore, government should immediately reveal the whereabouts of Murad Khan Marri.
On May 25, Mr. Marri was produced before the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court. He told the court that he had been kept in different places of detention and severely tortured since his actual arrest on June 27, 2009.
During the hearing on the May 25 of a constitutional petition filed on August 17, 2009 by his mother Mrs. Nazi, Mr. Marri told Mr. Faiz Essa, the chief justice of the High Court, that at the time his arrest was mentioned by the FC he had already been in their custody since his arrest on June 27, 2009.
According to his lawyer the victim said before the court that during his eight month’s detention he was kept in different places and tortured severely. Most of the time during his detention he was kept blind folded so he was unable to say where he had been held.
Due to the continuous torture he had fainted many times and on three occasions was brought to the CMH (at the time he did not realise that it was the Combined Military Hospital) for treatment. He is also unaware of the dates on which he was taken to the hospital. He was particularly treated about pain in his kidneys.
On one occasion he was brought to the Cantt (Cantonment Police Station), Quetta, where Mr. Deen Mohammad, the station house officer (SHO) refused to take charge of him because of his fragile condition.
Mr. Marri argued before the court that if he had been taken to the hospital and police station at Quetta by the FC during his custody before his supposed arrest in March then how is it possible that he was only arrested while crossing the Afghan border in March 2010 as claimed by the FC.
His statement about his illegal detention of eight months by the FC, his torture at their hands and the declaration by the FC of his fake arrest eight months after his disappearance placed the chief justice in an awkward position. The judge was dumbfounded by his revelations could not even ask him why he was tortured and kept incommunicado. Mr. Marri’s lawyer, Mr. Agha, made several requests of the chief justice to order the quashing of the FIR in which he was falsely charged with crossing the Afghan border for the motive of militant activities inside Pakistan, carrying explosive materials and Indian currency. But the chief justice was unable to respond. The lawyer also requested that he should be transferred from the Anti Terrorist Force (ATF) Jail to the district jail of Quetta city and that all cases pending before the Anti Terrorist Court (ATC) should be stopped. The Judge replied that he would prepare a report for the ATC but that it was up to the ATC to decide.
This was the first time after his ‘official’ arrest on March 27 that he was produced before the High Court and allowed to give his statement. He has never been allowed to meet his family members. Each time he was brought to the Anti Terrorist Court it was under heavy security and even his lawyer was not allowed to meet him. During the hearing at the ATC the brief on behalf of the lawyer was not signed directly by the lawyer but instead signed by the victim from the police lock-up at the ATC.
In the ATC court he was first produced on April 22, 2010, but for a while was in judicial remand at ATF jail. This time he requested a policeman to inform his lawyer that his next hearing would be on May 11. At that hearing his wife and son were there but the FC did not allow them to enter the court building. The victim was only produced when the timings of the court were over and his lawyer, Mr. Aman Ullah Kandhrani had already left.
On May 13 he was again produced at the ATC and the judge ordered the prosecutor to produce witnesses for the government side on May 26. However, the same order had to be repeated at the May 26 hearing when it was announced that the next hearing would be on June 7.
It is to be mentioned here that the government made an announcement of the head money (bounty) for the arrest of Mr. Marri in January 2010. Within two months the FC announced his arrest and claimed the reward. But the government has refused to pay any money after receiving reports that it had been shown that Mr. Marri was falsely arrested on March 27.
It is outrageous that the FC has a free hand in the Balochistan province to arrest people and implicate them in cases of anti-state activities. The civilian government after coming into power announced in 2009 that it would stop the military action in the province. However, in contradiction of this announcement the government then handed over the responsibility for law and order in the province to the FC. Since then there have been hundreds of cases of illegal arrests and disappearances involving the FC and also attacks on people protesting peacefully about the increase in cases of disappearances.
From 2005 to-date the FC has taken Rs. 12 Billion from the government for maintaining law and order which, in fact, has deteriorated since the deployment of the FC.
It has also been observed that the higher courts are not taking the cases of disappearances seriously. It is claimed that around 5000 persons have disappeared after arrest by the security forces and there are more than 400 cases in the higher courts of Pakistan including the Supreme Court. However, the courts have not shown any determination to hold the state security agencies responsible for these disappearances despite of overwhelming testimony by family members implicating the state agencies.