UNPO at Sindhi US Press Conference on Enforced Disappearances
On 19 October 2017, the Sindhi Foundation hosted a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to raise awareness for gross, state-sponsored human rights violations in Sindh and in particular for the excessive use of enforced disappearances. The event was dedicated to the case of Punhal Sario, a human rights activist and head of the Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh who had been abducted on 3 August 2017 and was released only a few minutes prior to the start of the event. UNPO Representative Marvin Kumetat addressed the panel, discussing the overall severe human rights situation in Sindh and Pakistan writ large.
The press conference organized by the Sindhi Foundation addressed the rampant use of enforced disappearances in the Sindh province of Pakistan, emphasising the recent disappearance of notable human rights activist and convener of Voice for Missing Persons of Sindh, Punhal Sario. Mr Sario had last been seen on 3 August 2017 when he was forcibly disappeared by Pakistani agencies. Even though a report had been filed with the police and complaints been submitted to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, up until the day of the event, no action had been taken and Mr. Sario's whereabouts and fate were completely unknown. The event opened with the announcement by host Sufi laghari of the good news that, only minutes before the start of the press conference, Mr. Sario had been released and was physically unharmed.
Despite the good news about Mr. Sario’s release, the event’s panellist used the occasion to address the worrying human rights situation in Sindh and other provinces of Pakistan. The speakers were consistent in their message that, sadly, Mr. Sario’s is but one of thousands of other cases of activists, journalists, students or mere civilians who have been forcibly disappeared by Pakistani agents and whose whereabouts remain unknown.
Opening remarks by Mr. Laghari were followed by several statements on behalf of members of the US Congress, six of which had demanded in August that the human rights situation in the Sindh region “should be a priority in US relations with Pakistan and that Mr. Sario should be released. Following statements, inter alia by Baloch representatives, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, as well as the World Sindhi Congress emphasised the need to pay close attention and raise a voice for the many other cases of forcibly disappeared people in Sindh, Balochistan and Pakistan in general, while also supporting those who were released and survived the suffering endured during their abduction.
Mr Marvin Kumetat’s speech offered the UNPO perspective on the issues facing the people of Sindh and other minority communities in Pakistan. UNPO directed attention to the fact that, in addition to the rampant use of enforced disappearances, the Pakistani government tries to undermine peaceful actions taken by Sindh civil society by using forced conversions as a political tool, while also brutally implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor – without consultation of or benefits for the people of Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan.