`Missing` publisher – 30 Aug 2022

THOUGH the nation may be in the midst of a calamity of epic proportions, some within the security establishment are still focusing their energies on `disappearing` people.

This was apparently the case with Fahim Habib Baloch, a publisher and human rights activist, who was whisked away on Friday from Karachi`s Urdu Bazaar. According to details published in this paper, policemen as well as individuals in plain clothes approached Mr Baloch at his bookshop and asked him if he had sent books to Germany. Thereafter, they asked him to accompany them to a vehicle parked outside. There has been no news about the publisher`s whereabouts since then. Initially the police refused to register a complaint regarding the disappearance, but after the man`s family members and civil society activists insisted they do so, the law enforcers finally lodged the FIR on Monday.

It is unfortunate that invisible hands are still able to take away people`s right to liberty in such a fashion. If the powers that be felt that Mr Baloch had broken the law, there exist courts in this country where such plaints can be registered. Fahim Baloch was clearly not a militant, and his disappearance in this fashion is totally unacceptable. He needs to be released forthwith, and if the authorities have evidence linking him to any illegal activity, they need to present it in a court of law so that he can defend himself.

Sadly, the policy of `disappearing` people has not been done away with, despite the fact that the higher judiciary has slammed this vile practice. Picking people up without proof and without due process will hardly win hearts and minds. Instead, it will increase alienation from the state, and may further fuel the separatist militancy the establishment seeks to quell. Instead of `disappearing` people, the state needs to ensure equitable development and the rule of law in Balochistan, where many of the missing persons hail from. Adding to the list of the missing is no way to handle this delicate matter.

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