Fiction vs facts!
Air Cdre Khalid Iqbal (R)


Pakistan is passing through a patch when, acceptance wise, fiction tends to replace facts. A judicial decision is good one and is on merit as long as it favours the individual or the lobby; and when it does not, it is condemned as biased, and that too with impunity. Recent example is the unfortunate remarks by a leading lawyer of the country on the outcome of Memo Commission. Similarly, themes about linkages of all Taliban outfits with Al-Qaida are another fiction being promoted relentlessly, despite the fact that Taliban factions including the groups of Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Haqqanis have recently announced to avoid kidnapping for ransom, killing innocent people, stop suicide attacks in Pakistan and not to conduct violent operations against security forces of Pakistan. This indicates that Al-Qaeda claims are baseless that all Jihadi entities are getting ready to inflict damage to Pakistan’s security forces.

Likewise, fiction has it that after failing to strike a deal on NATO supply with Pakistan, violating international laws, the US has moved its aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into Pakistani territorial waters near Gawadar. And a US based Baluch dissident Dr Wahid Baluch has welcomed it in the context of unrest in Baluchistan. The fact is that aircraft carriers do not have to move into territorial waters to be effective. They can do their job while remaining hundreds of miles away from the coast.

Also, issue of missing persons is getting similar misrepresentation. Disappearance of persons is certainly a sensitive matter, involving fundamental Human Rights; coupled with this are the recurring gory episodes of mutilated corpses. Even a single missing person or surfacing of a single un-mutilated dead body is a scar on the face of the state and the government, inclusive of all its institutions. Unfortunately the issue is not being handled in a professional way. Passing of buck is the name of the game. Had the matter been pursued in a skilled manner, there would not be so much of gap between the numbers being put forward by various entities.

Due to this attitude of complacency and pathological indifference, the void is being filled by rumours and anti-Pakistan narratives. By now there are a strong interest groups thriving on sensationalization of such issues. In the absence of authentic and credible figures, acceptance of fiction is replacing the acceptance of facts. Nobody is talking of private prisons of feudal and tribal chieftains in the interior of Sindh and Baluchistan, which probably is the vital missing narrative in the case of missing persons.

There have all along been known and secret private jails, especially in the interior these two provinces, which may account for a bulk of the number that remains untraced. Even there are allegations about sitting ministers of Baluchistan regarding their involvement in abductions. It is likely that all missing persons languishing in these private jails and those who become victims of tribal and other feuds are being conveniently reported as missing persons and attributed to the highhandedness of law enforcing agencies (LAEs). While apportioning the blame, our LAEs and intelligence agency are to squarely blame for letting the things come to such a pass and not providing requisite security to the common man on the street. Moreover, their failure to radiate a public friendly image is a colossal leadership failure. No wonders, people only believe what all is negative about them and a lot of good work they perform does not stick in the public opinion.

Recent revelations by Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, the head of the government appointed judicial commission for missing persons, during his recent press conference at the Civil Secretariat Quetta, were quite startling.

It is Sindh and not Baluchistan that tops the tragedy with 174 missing persons. As per his count 460 is the nation-wide number of these unfortunate ‘missing’ persons. Further breakdown reveals that: 18 missing persons are from Islamabad; 117 from Punjab; 174 from Sindh, 170 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; 57 from Baluchistan; and 12 each from FATA and AJK. So far bodies of 42 missing persons have surfaced in Baluchistan.

Interestingly, Commission’s report is quite contrary to the common perception. Ironically, Commission’s figures about Baluchistan are rather close to the FC stand point, statistics and narrative. Commission further observed that none of the state institutions has precise statistics about the missing persons. “As many as 44 people were recovered over the past three months through the commission’s efforts,” Justice Javed said. Just during the week prior to his press brief, 12 missing persons were recovered from Baluchistan. Justice Javed revealed that some of the persons presumed to be ‘missing’ were in Afghanistan. The list of missing persons compiled by the commission also contains the names of those living abroad and those involved in terrorism-related cases. Though he did not show dissatisfaction with the help received from the Baluchistan government, he pointed out that the chief minister had sent to the panel a list of 945 missing persons but without their particulars, “We sent the list back to the (home) ministry for correction but it never came back.”

The case of missing persons in the country has attained greater prominence with media’s hype which tends to overplay the ordeal of victim families while using emotional metaphors, and blaming the LEAs for having arrested, tortured and killed the innocent people. The trend is getting popular among the internal audience whereas the facts remain obscured. Moreover, some of the terrorists while conducting raids / ambushes etc are killed during the action. In many cases, their dead bodies are taken away by their comrades, who probably burry them quietly at unknown places. The families are not informed about their deaths, who consider as if they were in the custody of LEAs or intelligence agencies. Likewise, suicide bombers and unidentified persons who die in such suicide attacks are also considered as missing persons. Furthermore, proclaimed offenders who go underground are also clubbed into this category.

It is about the time that we start believing in facts rather than fiction. Leadership from all walks of life has a role to play in it. They may promote fiction and still survive for some time, but once it’s time for answer to history, they would certainly fail.