bbcurdu.com puts the spotlight on "the disappeared" in Pakistan

BBC Urdu explored the sensitive issue of missing or disappeared people in Pakistan in a special debate in Islamabad on Monday, 3 July. The discussion was webcast live on the website and also broadcast in the flagship programme Sairbeen. In preparation, BBC Urdu compiled the list of those known to have disappeared in recent years, and this will now remain online and will be regularly updated.

Together with three families from Baluchistan province, whose relatives are missing, the Information Minister of Pakistan, Mohd Ali Durrani, and former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Asad Durrani, took part in the special broadcast which explored every aspect of the disappeared – from legal to emotional.

The BBC’s Mazhar Zaidi, who produced the on-hour debate in Islamabad, said the programme was emotional and highly charged: “The families of disappeared people, who came to participate in the programme, were crying and hugging each other. They were able to quiz the Information Minister as to why their loved ones had never been produced in courts or formally charged.”

Mrs Masud Janjua, whose husband has been missing since 30 July 2005, said: “It’s the worst kind of torture; it’s better to know [they] are dead.”

The mother of Muneer Maingal, who was allegedly detained by the authorities at Karachi airport in April 2006 and has not been seen since, said: “I want to smell the fragrance of my son again.”

When asked if he accepted the failure of the government in tackling the problem, the Information Minister, Mohd Ali Durrani, said: “I am stating the failure of a government, which has to deal with grave issues like terrorsim and at the same time protect the rights of its citizens.”

Mohammed Hanif, Head of BBC’s Urdu Service, says: “When we started compiling the list of the disappeared in Pakistan, we were overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to help us. Various individuals and organisations phoned us in large numbers, providing us with several ‘new’ cases. It remains a difficult task but we wanted to generate a healthy debate on this sensitive subject and highlight all sides of the story. And we plan to keep it in the public eye by continually updating the list.”

The lists and a recording of the debate can be accessed via bbcurdu.com

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