The killings of a Baloch journalist and a Pashtun human rights activist last week, have given credence to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan's (HRCP) verdict that the enforced disappearances of Pakistanis were "either for their political or religious affiliations, or for their defence of human rights".

Sajid Hussain, a Baloch and editor of the online magazine Balochistan Times in Sweden, disappeared on March 2. His body was found in a river outside the Swedish city of Uppsala on May 1.

The same day, leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) Arif Wazir was shot dead in Wana, South Waziristan.

While Hussain was a significant voice of Baloch people abroad, dedicated to documenting enforced disappearances by the Pakistan Army and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Wazir was a peace activist demanding an end to human rights violations especially extrajudicial killings and kidnappings in South Waziristan.

Pakistan flag
Pakistan flag (Representational image) Pixabay

Journalist in exile

The journalist had fled Pakistan in 2012 after receiving threats over his journalistic work in Balochistan province. He was living in Sweden in exile.

The Pashtun rights activist's father, uncle and five others in his family killed in Waziristan in 2007.

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Sweden suspects that the Baloch might have been kidnapped by the ISI.

Amnesty International has asked Pakistan to conduct an independent investigation into Wazir's killing.

In a scathing report last week, the HRCP pointed out that Pakistan was yet to criminalise enforced disappearances even though the Imran Khan government has made commitments several times.

The report said that since the inception of the commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), of which South Waziristan is a part, has topped the list in the numbers of missing persons.

Last year at least 2,472 persons were registered as missing in KP.

The enforced disappearances are "either for their political or religious affiliations or for their defence of human rights", the report said.

The commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances, the HRCP report said, "falls short of being an effective agency to provide relief to the citizens, apportion responsibility and bring perpetrators to justice".

In the same report, the HRCP said curbs on freedom of opinion and expression continued to escalate.

The commission also noted that for journalists in Balochistan and KP in particular, it "had become even more difficult to speak or write openly" if at all "on 'sensitive' issues such as enforced disappearances, or to criticise state policy or security agencies in these areas".