EDITORIAL: Small Men in Big Offices

With grave disappointment, The Students Herald’s team condemns the highly insensitive and totally uncalled for remarks on the missing persons issues, by none other than the federal minister for Human Rights himself. Mr. Riaz Pirzada, in an exclusive interview to a private news channel last night, offered his take on the soaring issue of missing persons by claiming that ‘some of these missing persons are engaged by terrorists like Kulbhoshan Jadhav or by neighbouring countries’. He further went on to humiliate himself by saying that ‘poor people like them are lured into terrorism for money’. He suggests that Intelligence agencies be given free rein in dealing with the missing persons issue instead of involving civilian ‘commissions’.

Mr. Pirzada seems to have forgotten that many of these missing persons he is referring to as some misguided poverty-stricken people, have actually been well-learned and vocal human rights activists, critical journalists and university-going students who were abducted in broad daylight. 

Since majority of the victims of enforced disappearances hail from Pashtun and Baloch lineage, either the minister is suggesting that these enthnicities are more susceptible to ‘foreign brainwashing’ or he is completely clueless.

Many of the students who were disappeared forcibly belong to the peripheral areas of the country and have faced exploitation and violence at the hands of state-sponsored terrorists for years. Due to the lack of higher education institutions and infrastructure in these mineral-rich regions, they are left with no choice but to move to metropolitan cities where they face both ethnic discrimination as well as continual harassment from state agencies. They know better than to engage with Jadhav and his likes. Since majority of the victims of enforced disappearances hail from Pashtun and Baloch lineage, either the minister is suggesting that these enthnicities are more susceptible to ‘foreign brainwashing’ or he is completely clueless. Because the last we remember, the very state agencies he’s defending by splashing mud on these hapless fellows, were the one who initiated these ‘brainwashing programs’. 

Further more, Mr. Pirzada needs to keep up-to-date with current affairs instead of bashing the victims of gruesome human rights violations. The Islamabad high court has categorically accepted the role of state in the missing persons issues, while he suggests otherwise. 

His irresponsible and non-sense remarks have compounded the grievances of missing persons’ families who have been on streets for years pleading before successive governments to let their loved ones come back to them. Quite remarkably though, the minister represents the party who has been railing against this issue whilst in Opposition, and has now been updated along establishment lines. We clearly remember Maryam Nawaz going from one camp to another set up by missing persons families, just days before the no confidence motion succeeded.

Linking victims of enforced disappearances with terrorism is an ill-considered take, one that Mr. Pirzada should offer an apology for. It’s public knowledge that many of these missing persons were students who had been vocal critics of state-sponsored extremism and rights violations. The minister is advised to do his homework before passing such ignorant remarks, more so when he chairs the Human Rights ministry.

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