Activist vows to find missing Pakistanis in Eritrea

By Jamil Khan

DUBAI: Ansar Burney, eminent Pakistani human rights and civil rights activist, has vowed to visit Eritrea to release the eight Pakistanis who have been missing since 1993.

Talking to The Gulf Today on Thursday night, Burney said he has been in Dubai for the last couple of days and applied for a visa, which he hopes to receive in the next 2-3 weeks. He also appreciated the support of the Pakistani community in the UAE that has helped him in the past and will continue to help him in the future.

He attended a reception hosted by prominent Pakistani businessman Zubair Mir in Dubai, which was attended by a number of dignitaries from the Pakistani community.

“It is not an easy task but I have a firm belief in the divine that I will find and bring back the missing Pakistanis who were on a Tablighi (preaching) mission in Eritrea and are now in a jail somewhere serving life terms,” he said.

He stated that the Jamaat (group) of eight Pakistanis belonged to different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan and went on a mission in June 1993.

“The group was staying in a mosque located in the capital, Asmara, when the deadly coup took place. Since then they have been missing and their families back home were informed that they have been killed. But a couple of years ago, an NGO visited Eritrea and from them the families found out that they were alive and languishing in a jail. No one gave them a second thought but recently when a Saudi NGO contacted some of the families the hope of finding the missing Pakistanis grew stronger and they (families) approached me to pursue the matter,” he said.

The family members had also requested the Pakistan government to intervene but so far the government has no diplomatic relations with Eritrea. Then the Ansar Burney Trust came forward with its decision to visit the country and find the missing Pakistanis.

According to some media reports, the records of the organisation (Tableghi Jamaat) which sent them on their mission showed that the missing Pakistanis included Mian Muhammad as their leader, Eitbar Khan, Mirza Khan, Hunar Sher, Sher Mohammad, Hafiz Saeed, Naushad Khan and Habibullah. The Jamaat first went to Addis Ababa then Djibouti and from there they entered Eritrea and reached Asmara.

The last contact between the missing group and their families back home was through a letter sent by Mian Muhammad to his son in Peshawar on November 1993 to inform him of their safe journey and where they were staying: the Khalid Bin Walid Mosque, Asmara.

Burney has been widely acclaimed within the country and abroad for his successful missions on various human rights issues, especially in the release of Pakistanis and others from Somali pirates who captured MV Suez last year.

He is also chairman of the Ansar Burney Trust International he set up in 1980 with offices in many cities in Pakistan and abroad, including Washington and London.

Burney also visited Sudan on a search when someone told them the missing Pakistanis were in a jail in Khartoum. “The tipoff about them being in Sudan was not true and I will visit Eritrea soon to find out the missing Pakistanis,” he said.


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Posted by on Sep 15 2012 Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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