Abdul Hafeez Baloch: Quaid-e-Azam University student Khuzdar allegedly missing, family accused of enforced disappearance

Muhammad Kazim
BBCUrdu.com, Quetta

Abdul Hafeez, the youngest son of Haji Muhammad Hassan, a resident of Khuzdar district of Balochistan, has been reported missing from Khuzdar city since Tuesday. He says Abdul Hafeez was teaching children in the evening at an educational institution in Khuzdar when armed masked men picked him up from the classroom.

Abdul Hafeez Baloch hails from Baghbana area of Khuzdar.

He is a final year M.Phil in Physics at Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.

According to Khuzdar police, regarding the alleged disappearance of Abdul Hafeez, his relatives have applied for registration of a case on which action has been initiated.

How did the alleged disappearance happen?
Abdul Hafeez’s father Haji Muhammad Hassan told the BBC that his son Abdul Hafeez had come to Khuzdar from Islamabad in the last week of January on holiday.

He said that Abdul Hafeez was very fond of education so even during the holidays he did not lose his connection with teaching and he used to go to a local institution in the evening to teach children for free.

He said that even on February 8, he was in the academy to teach the children when three masked armed men came in a black surf car.

“Two of them came into the classroom and forcibly took Abdul Hafeez with them to an unknown location in front of the students.”

He said that when the people of the academy informed him about the incident, they tried their best to trace him on their own but they did not succeed in tracing him.

He said that out of frustration, he lodged a complaint with the City Police Station Khuzdar regarding his disappearance.

He said that his son was not involved in any negative activities and his attention was always on his studies.

“Abdul Hafeez wanted to pass on the knowledge he had acquired to others, which is why he used to go out in the evenings to teach children.”

He said his family was devastated by the loss of his son. He said he had no animosity towards anyone so he could not say why his son was missing.

What do the authorities say?
Deputy Commissioner Khuzdar Abdul Qaddos Achakzai told the BBC that the incident was under police investigation. He said that SSP Khuzdar was investigating the matter.

When contacted, Khuzdar City Police Station SHO Muhammad Afzal told the BBC over the phone that his relatives had lodged a complaint at the police station regarding Hafeez Baloch’s disappearance.

He said that his relatives did not file a report immediately after the incident but tried to find him on their own.

The SHO said that they had requested for Hafeez’s disappearance on Wednesday after 24 hours and after receiving the request, the procedure has been started.

Demand for recovery of Abdul Hafeez on social media
The incident of Abdul Hafeez’s disappearance kept trending on social media on Tuesday and Wednesday and users were seen demanding his recovery and release.

A user named Jalil Baloch wrote, “A bright future for Balochistan is in illegal custody today. Civil society is requested to raise voice for immediate recovery of Hafeez Baloch.

Another user, Ejaz Baba, wrote demanding his release: “This is one of our worst times that our friends are disappearing in broad daylight but they are not being traced.” In another tweet, he wrote that we have more missing persons charts than books.

Farman Baloch also demanded his release, saying that “instead of students, there are universities and not torture cells without any charges.”


Noshki, Panjgur attack: Lack of authentic information from Balochistan 

Sarah Atiq
BBCUrdu.com, Islamabad

The news of an attack the FC headquarters in the Noshki and Panjgur areas of Pakistan’s Balochistan news spread like wildfire on social media.

Locals and journalists from Balochistan have shared a number of videos. 

Baloch separatist organization Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) quickly released a press release before the government could issue a statement regarding the attack. The organization brazenly claimed the responsibility of the attach and said in their press release that they have started an operation against the security forces. 

The Pakistani military’s public relations department, the ISPR, confirmed the attacks last night, while the federal and provincial interior ministries provided details of the attack the next day, including reports of casualties. Contradictory statements emerged.

The day after the attacks, ISPR confirmed the deaths of seven military personnel, but Balochistan’s interior minister put the number at 12.

The government has shut down internet and mobile services in Noshki and Panjgur, making it difficult for the media to access ground realities.

The security situation in Balochistan was alarming but surprisingly there was no news about it on the front pages of national papers. Local media did not give much coverage of the attacks. People complained about this on social media.

The news ‘black out’ from any authoritative source has made it difficult to confirm the claims of the parties. 

People are only receiving information the BLA. 

This is not the first time that official confirmation and release of details of the attack in Balochistan has been delayed so much.

News of the deaths of ten soldiers in an attack on a military post in the Ketch area of ​​Balochistan on the night of February 25, just days before the attacks in Noshki and Panjgur, began circulating on social media.

On January 26, the Baloch separatist organization Baloch Liberation Front released details of the attack and claimed responsibility, while official sources confirmed the news on the night of January 27, about 30 hours after the incident.

Journalists from Balochistan lament that when they contact local authorities for information regard the attack they were surprised to know that they did not have any details. 

Journalist said they had been asked not report any news unless ISPR issues releases a press releases. This tells us how grim is situation in Balochistan.

At a time when no information was being received from local people and officials and it was becoming difficult to communicate, the BLA was constantly sharing information through its telegram channel in the form of video, audio and press releases. ۔ And we saw that soon this information started to be shared on social media.

Statements issued by the BLA refuted ISPR’s claim that the attack in Panjgur had been foiled and claimed that the BLA attackers were still present at the FC headquarters.

The BLA also released audiotales claiming to be from the attackers inside the FC headquarters, who were alerted to the latest developments.

This information was being released by BLA in three languages ​​English, Balochi and Urdu. In addition to the number, names and photos of the attackers, full details of the attack, dubbed ‘Operation Ganjal’, were also shared on media and social media.

At the same time, various accounts on social media, where images, maps and satellite images of the area were shared, a lot of misinformation was also shared. When the BBC did a fact check on some of this important information, some important points came to light.

The market for misinformation on social media heated up during the attack
The BLA claimed to have shot down a military gunship helicopter in Panjgur.

After which several social media accounts shared such videos in which it was claimed that these videos were aimed at a Pakistani army helicopter.

But the video is actually from February 2020 , when a Syrian helicopter was shot down by rebels.

Similarly, the second video of the helicopter being shot down was shared from the Twitter handle of the local Indian media. This video is from November 2020, when a Russian helicopter was shot down by the Azerbaijani army near the Armenian border .

The pictures circulating related to this news are also of a Pakistani army helicopter that crashed in 2015.

News also circulated on Twitter that Major General Bilal Safdar, head of FC South, had been killed in the attack. His name was given by some Twitter users as Major General Saeed.

However, military sources denied the allegations, saying that not only were the reports of his deaths false, but also that the pictures and names circulating on social media did not belong to the head of FC South. At the moment, FC South Major General Kamal Anwar Chaudhry is the one who is ‘goodbye’.

It is noteworthy that many accounts sharing false information on social media have stated their location in India.

Pakistan’s recently released National Security Policy acknowledges that Pakistan is also threatened by misinformation spread by domestic and foreign elements. Which will improve communication and exchange of information at the national level.

However, Balochistan, Pakistan’s most sensitive province in terms of security, is still called the ‘information black hole’, a place from which no information comes out. And the lack of credible information during recent attacks has reinforced this claim.

According to a United Nations report on Fake News, one of the reasons for the spread of misinformation is the lack of information from credible sources such as the media and official sources.

While the Panjgur and Noshki attacks have been plagued by delays and contradictory statements from government sources, information from the militant group has continued uninterrupted from moment to moment until the news of the end of the Panjgur attack first reached the BLA and It was later released by government officials.

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