Author: Fateh Baloch
On 3rd February 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Karachi presided over by Judge Mohammad Yasin Qadri, acquitted Abdul Hafeez Zehri, son of Muhammad Ramzan, of all charges since the allegations against him were not proven in the court of law.
Soon after receiving the judicial order, the family members of Abdul Hafeez went to jail to take him home. While on their way home, a white Vigo vehicle blocked their way, and some armed men tried to abduct Abdul Hafeez Zehri. Seeing this, the sisters of Hafeez Zehri and other family members resisted the armed men; as a result, the armed men fired shots at them, physically assaulted the women, and tried to abduct Abdul Hafeez, but the brave Bibi Fatima, sister of Abdul Hafeez, did not let her brother get kidnapped for a second time and become a victim of enforced disappearances.
After facing strong resistance from the family members, the armed men gave up but before fleeing, they tried to kill Abdul Hafeez by shooting at him and causing him severe injuries. The incident was filmed by several bystanders and later uploaded to different social media platforms; thousands of social media users viewed the scenes in a matter of hours. The video clips of the incident went viral among Baloch social and political circles and people expressed their concern and strongly condemned the attempted abduction of Hafeez Zehri.
How did Abdul Hafeez arrive in Karachi from Dubai?
On the night of 27th January last year, the secret agencies of the United Arab Emirates abducted Abdul Hafeez from a parking lot near his house when he was returning from work. Upon the continued inquiry by his family members, the UAE authorities revealed that he had been handed over to the Pakistani authorities without giving any reason for his arrest. After learning this, the family of Abdul Hafeez started to search for him in Pakistan by contacting the authorities but to no avail.
However, the continued struggle of his family bore fruit when Zehri’s whereabouts were finally discovered in Pakistan three months later. Hafeez Zehri’s family then filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, which was accepted for hearing on 29th March 2022. During the hearing in April last year, it was revealed to the court that he had been arrested by the CTD (Counter-Terrorism Department) from Karachi and was being held in the central jail of Karachi.
The CTD had filed a case against Abdul Hafeez in the South District Karachi Police station under the Sindh Arms Act. According to the FIR, Abdul Hafeez was arrested on 31st March 2022 from Mubarak Shaheed Road, and the CTD claimed that a thirty-bore pistol and bullets were recovered from him. According to the report submitted in the Sindh High court by the CTD on 14th April, said that Abdul Hafeez Zehri was arrested, and a case was filed against him in two sections. However, Zehri’s sister claimed that her brother was innocent, and they expected justice from the courts and that Abdul Hafeez would be acquitted of false charges. The court’s decision on 3rd February 2023 proved the claims of Zehri’s sister to be true as the court released him, and all charges against him were dropped.
What happened to Hafeez Zehri’s family in the past?
Abdul Hafeez Zehri’s enforced disappearance is not the first instance of such an event for the Zehri family. The family has been facing state atrocities for over a decade, including enforced disappearances, mutilated dead bodies, and state-sponsored target killings.
Before Hafeez Zehri’s enforced disappearance, Rashid Hussain, a Baloch human rights activist and a close family relative of Abdul Hafeez, was also forcibly abducted by the UAE authorities on 26th December 2018. According to Rashid’s family, he was held in secret detention for three months in the UAE before being illegally handed over to the Pakistani authorities—Rashid’s whereabouts remain unknown to date and his family fears that his life is in grave danger.
The family was targeted again on 10th April 2021, when Abdul Hameed Zehri, the brother-in-law of Abdul Hafeez Zehri was forcibly disappeared from Karachi. The family of Abdul Hameed Zehri has knocked on every door to locate his whereabouts but to no avail.
The state atrocities against the Zehri family started in 2010, when Hafeez Zehri’s younger brother Majeed Zehri, a 14-year-old student, was killed extrajudicially after being forcibly abducted by the Pakistani army. In 2012, Hafeez Zehri’s father Haji Ramzan, a well-known businessman, was shot and killed in Khuzdar, Balochistan. The Baloch political circles blame Pakistan’s military and its formed militant groups for the death of Zehri’s father and younger brother.
Where is Abdul Hafeez Zehri now?
The injured Abdul Hafeez is currently at his sister’s place in Karachi. His sister, Fatima Baloch, claims that the secret agencies will try to abduct her brother again. According to Fatima, upon his brother’s release from the central jail in Karachi, armed men belonging to Pakistani secret agencies tried to abduct her brother once again and by facing resistance, they physically assaulted the family members and severely injured Hafeez Zehri. At the moment, Abdul Hafeez and his younger brother are severely injured and require urgent medical attention, but the family is reluctant to transfer them to a hospital, for they fear the men from secret agencies may attempt to abduct him once again. According to Fatima Hameed, when the family wanted to transfer the injured brothers to a hospital after foiling the attempted abduction of Abdul Hafeez, the armed men of secret agencies followed them in a Vigo.
Abdul Hafeez’s sister has appealed to the Baloch political organizations, human rights organizations, and lawyer associations to raise their voices in this matter so that she can ensure her brother’s safety. Fatima also hopes the court will provide them with protection and justice.