“Amma fikar na kero hum chor dien ge” (lady do not worry, we will release him soon), the words echoed in Mah Bibi’s ears while her son Mehr Ali was dragged by Rangers personnel into a vehicle to be taken away. She hated the numbness. The helplessness was awful. But she couldn’t do anything other than trust the Rangers jawaan. Her wait for Mehr’s return lasted for 484 days, each felt like a year.
This was 14 November 2016. Mah Bibi had felt a similar numbness ten years ago. In 2006, her husband, father of her three children, was killed brutally in a property feud in restive Teertaj, Awaran. The killer allegedly had backing of a notorious local death squad. They were too influential to be taken revenge from. Ten years down the road, she was facing a similar opponent again, too powerful to be questioned, with too much impunity to be held accountable.
In 2006, Mehr though in his early teens but was still the eldest of his siblings. The responsibility to earn for the family fell upon him at a very young age. He had to discontinue his education after primary level and they moved to metropolitan Karachi for a bright future. This was not very bright, he had to work in factories as a low wage earner to provide for his younger brother and sister and her bereaving mother. He was too young for this but he had no choice. He had to age early.
Mah Bibi’s family settled in Lyari. The life was totally different here than what they were used to in villages of Teertaj. Lyari was full of life but totted equal and at times even more deaths too. Mehr worked hard and finally they had food on the table and a roof on the head. They lived in Singuline.
Life continued with its ups and down and then came the 14 November 2016. Mehr Ali was in street 11 of Singuline before the dusk prayers that day. Rangers personnel suddenly raided the area and arrested all the young males. This happens quite often in Lyari. Mah Bibi witnessed the whole episode and pleaded the armed personnel to let her son go. They only provided fake assurances that he will be released soon, but he was never released, at least not alive.
On 15 November 2016, a local daily newspaper, Daily Janbaaz Karachi, published the news of Mehr Ali’s arrest.
Mah Bibi’s next days were spent in search of her now missing son. They suffered financially as well as emotionally but she continued her search. She left no stone unturned. She went to police stations and Rangers camps to get any kind of information about Mehr but was not told anything about his whereabouts. She even contacted some politicians but couldn’t get any lucky.
She also wrote to the Director General of Rangers and pleaded him to produce Mehr before the courts if he was guilty of any crime. Mah Bibi has now sent a copy of this letter to The Balochistan Post (TBP).
When this all did not work, Mah Bibi was advised by some well-wishers to file a petition before the court of law. The court and lawyer’s fee were a great hurdle but she somehow managed to arrange that. However, she was unable to hire a good lawyer due to the financial constraints. Anyhow, a petition was filed on her behalf in Sindh high court a week after Mehr Ali’s arrest.
She pleaded that her son was innocent and had no affiliation with any religious group or the prevalent gang war in Lyari. He is the only earning hand of the family and the family has been living a miserable life since his arrest.
She feared the worst and told the court that her son might be killed in a fake encounter as he has not been produced before any court and the Rangers are now denying his arrest. She did not know her suspicions and worst fears will materialize one day.
As she had hired a weak lawyer, contradictions were apparent in the petition. This didn’t help much at all, however, she made her case before the court of law. She appealed the ‘Honorable Court’ to order urgent release of his son or charge him if he is guilty of any crimes.
The court summoned Rangers officials to the court and they maintained that they haven’t picked up Mehr Ali. The court couldn’t do anything more.
TBP had exclusive access to petition filed before the Sindh high court and is publishing it here for its readers.
However, Mah Bibi did not want to loose the battle just like that. Any ideas or advise she got, she made sure they were acted upon. She met numerous people, almost every week and sometimes multiple times a week. Somebody told her to use media to attract attention towards her plight. She did exactly that.
On 23rd February 2018, she managed to get Mehr Ali’s story published in local dailies. At least two daily newspapers, Daily Special Karachi and Azaad Riyasat, published her story and Mehr Ali’s pictures.
She waited for the results of her endeavors and she did not have to wait long now. On 13 March 2018, personnel of Pakistani Rangers came under attack by unknown armed persons in Lyari, same area where Mehr Ali was kidnapped in first place. Rangers in return took a very easy revenge. They had Mehr Ali and few others under their custody. They killed four of them in fake encounters and portrayed them as armed terrorists. The Pakistani media backed their brave soldiers in this propaganda.
Mah Bibi’s wait is now over. Mehr Ali is finally home but lifeless. He is resting in a grave yard just like his father. Both killed by influential forces that enjoy impunity and cannot be held accountable.