I often wonder how Sajid Hussain reads so much. From Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller to Arundhati Roy and Mohammed Hanif, he did not miss their work. In fact, he not only read the novel carefully, he also reread many of them. And if by chance he knows that he hasn’t read something he intended to read, he will take it and finish it as soon as possible.
I felt a kind of victory when, last year, I talked to him about the book I was reading. That was by Dr. Viktor Frankl, and is a real page turner, records the author’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. I found Hussain hadn’t read Man Search for Meanings. Finally, there is something I read that he – my mentor – hasn’t touched. But no one left a good book, only a few days later, Hussain sent me a message saying yes, indeed, it was good reading.
He is a greedy reader and maybe that’s why Hussain is also a great writer and brilliant journalist. “If you want to do justice by writing, you have to read, read, and read,” he said often. He insisted on this formula when he taught me the ins and outs of journalism.
But when a new wave of “killing and discarding policies” emerged, and the problem of enforced disappearances once again struck Pakistan’s turbulent province, Balochistan, Hussain had to leave the country in 2012. For years after that he lived like a wanderer. , a refugee, spends some time in one country and then moves to another.
It was not an easy decision, leaving friends and family at home – his wife, 9-year-old daughter, and 5-year-old son, whom he loved very much. During one of our first chats, he told me, “I am forced to go.” Hussain spent months and years in exile in Oman, Dubai and Uganda before ending in Sweden, one of the safest countries in the world, in 2017
But after fleeing Pakistan because of security concerns, today he has mysteriously disappeared in Sweden.
On March 28, 2020, the online news portal Balochistan Times was announced that Hussain, who was editor in chief, had disappeared on March 2 from Uppsala, a city about 70 kilometers from Stockholm.
Hussain’s loss was confusing to everyone who knew him well. Whether it’s related to his work or to the increasing number of missing people in Scandinavian countries, no one can unite what happened to him.
Last Farewell to Balochistan
Pakistan is rated the most dangerous country for journalists in the world. It seems to be the worst for journalists like Sajid Hussain, who comes from areas such as the province of Balochistan, who are torn apart by rebellions; where journalists are trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Hussain also reported on controversial topics, such as human rights violations, rebellion, politics, and drug trafficking. He served as assistant editor and editor of the city in Jakarta International News, the largest English-language daily in Pakistan. He also wrote editorial articles for the newspaper.
In September 2012, Hussain helped Reuters journalists write stories about enforced disappearances during a UN team visit to Balochistan. The team focuses its work on human rights violations in the province. Then a problem arises.
A close friend of Hussain, who asked for anonymity, told the story: “Sajid was sitting with reporters in his room in a hotel in Quetta [the capital of Balochistan] when some security officers came and knocked on the door. “The foreign reporter asked Sajid to go using another door, which he did, to flee before security could catch him.
“As soon as he returned to his flat in Quetta, he emailed a chapter of his book to me,” his friend said. The e-mail said, “Remember! This is a rough concept. Don’t publish at any cost. If something happens to me, leave it to my daughter, when she grows up.”
Within a week of the incident, Hussain left Pakistan for unknown territory, leaving his wife and daughter, who was 1 year old.
“[The character] Yossarian from Catch 22 stays with me, “Hussain told me previous interview for Dawn. “The only aim is not to get killed in a war. Not getting killed in Balochistan is the best service you can do for yourself. “
In the same case, journalist Malik Siraj Akbar, who served as a former bureau chief Daily Time in Balochistan, was also forced to leave the country because of his work.
It was a crucial time in the province when Hussain and Akbar escaped. Uprising is underway – a full war between the Pakistani armed forces and rebels has divided the province. The problem of enforced disappearance arises from that problem, and so does the killing of many political workers, activists and journalists. Rebellion is still alive in the area, but the intensity is not the same after the security forces carried out a brutal crackdown.
Akbar, talk to Diplomat, remember that at that time, the media were “relatively free” outside of Balochistan, especially in the big cities of Pakistan.
“Now, reporters say journalism in big cities like Islamabad and Karachi is as risky as it used to be in Balochistan,” Akbar said. “The PTI government seems to be at war with the media. Credible editors who have seen Pakistan under martial law say things have definitely gotten worse lately.
Under Imran Khan’s inaugural leadership, the news media seemed to be the government’s favorite target. Recently Mir Shakil Ur Rehman, owner of the largest media network, Jang’s group, was arrested in a 36-year case. He is now in prison and activists and journalists call it Personal revenge. Khan seems to catalyze the death of Pakistani press freedom.
Attacking Dissent or the Case of a Swedish Missing Person?
Amid these difficulties in Pakistan, Sajid Hussain disappeared in Sweden.
On March 2, Hussain bid farewell to his friends and moved to his new apartment – a private student accommodation in Uppsala. He is enrolled in a master’s program at Uppsala University. He also worked on projects in the Iranian Department at the same university for the promotion and development of the Balochi language.
His friend Abdul Malik last said goodbye to Hussain that morning, before leaving for Stockholm himself. Malik is not in his wildest imagination to think that he will immediately start Twitter campaign for #FindSajidHussain with friends and other activists.
On March 30, the Community to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement about the disappearance of Hussain and urged the Swedish authorities to make every effort to find it and to ensure its safety. International Journalists Federation and its affiliates in Sweden and Pakistan issued a similar statement on April 2nd.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on March 30 also issued a pers conference about the disappearance of Hussain. The RSF statement highlighted the targeting of foreign journalists by Pakistani security services in other cases and expressed his suspicion of their involvement in the disappearance of Hussain.
But Shehnaz Baloch, Hussain’s wife, told me That Diplomat they don’t want to accuse anyone without facts. “What we want is Swedish authorities, especially the police, to investigate this issue very seriously and actively. As for going to isolation alone, I knew that he would never leave the place without informing us. “
In a statement, published in Balochistan Times, family too the word that “it’s too soon to accuse anyone.”
Even in Sweden, authorities say thousands are missing every year.
Jenny Johansson, case officer at Missing People (Sverige), an NGO that works with Swedish police to find missing people, said that “around 9,000 people are missing in Sweden [each year]. Most Swedes are missing with fragile mental health and may even be involved in crime or suicide. “
But he acknowledged that because Hussain was not Swedish, this case was unique because of his background. “We do not hold fast to one aspect of this case but look at his departure from all angles. This case is confusing, and we don’t know anything. “
This case is really confusing. Law enforcement officials have so far found no clues after lake dredging and forest and wood search for more than three weeks. Recently, a month after Hussain’s disappearance, police put up posters about the case and shared the news on TV too. They asked the public whether anyone saw Sajid Hussain on or after March 2.
Investigators for the case went on leave at the end of last week and will not return until Wednesday. This delay was a source of great anxiety for the Hussain family, who sharply felt the passing of every hour.
Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia-Pacific desk at the RSF, said that enforced disappearance – or worse – was a new way to prevent exiled journalists from expressing their views. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the way the people behind the crime just escaped without punishment, have strengthened many security agents.
Over the past few years, attacks on journalists in exile have increased. Jerk told Diplomat, “At the latest in November 2019, the Iranian intelligence agency launched a coordinated harassment and threat program against several Iranian journalists based abroad – mainly in the UK – and worked for news outlets such as BBC, Radio Farda, Iran International or Manoto TV channels. China also has a record of abducting journalists abroad, but mostly in Asian countries. “
Words Haunting the Missing Writer
If the Sajid Hussains of this world will be silenced, then the message sent is very loud.
Hussain is a writer who is honest, sensitive, imaginative, and has political feelings. His uncle, Ghulam Mohammed, who was killed in 2009, came from a violent nationalist political party, but Hussain’s emotions never weighed on his journalistic integrity. Baloch nationalists, separatists and the military – none escaped the wrath of the questioner.
His sensitivity is evident not only in his journalistic writing but also in literary works. He regretted old traditional ideas and approaches in Baloch society, ethnicity and emotional politics.
Hussain also runs a personal blog, titled “Sajid Baloch From Terra Incognita, “Where he wrote extensively on a variety of topics ranging from Baloch arts and culture to socio-political stories.
To explain the absurdity of the world, Hussain quotes writers like Franz Kafka. He was totally obsessed with Kafka, believing in everything he was fighting for. He also really liked Mohammed Hanif and his dark humor. He often reread the work of Hanif.
Hanif himself spoke to Diplomat about Hussain, commented, “I find it strange that he was forced to leave [the] country because so many people close to him disappear. And now he himself has disappeared in Sweden, where he has just begun a new life. I am worried sick. “
Indeed, irony is almost unbearable. Hussain tells the story of enforced disappearance honestly and honestly, giving a human face to the political scenario.
Some of his words continue to torment me today, after his own departure.
In before interview for The Diplomat, Hussain talked about missing people. “The dead do not haunt me like a lost person,” he said. “To be honest, I was relieved when I heard about the discovery of the body of a missing person. But the stories of people who languished with their eyes closed by small and dark cells for years made me avoid dark and crowded places.”
Now the disappearance of Hussain is haunting his friends, family, and colleagues. Not knowing about a friend or family member is torture. Balochistan is home to around 6,000 missing people; that means thousands of families live in torment. Hussain is the voice for the voiceless victims – and now they want their voices back.
Even more haunting is a chapter from Sajid Hussain’s book, which is for his daughter. This chapter involves a conversation between the doctor and the ambulance driver, who has taken a mutilated corpse. Unknown body.
Shah Meer Baloch is a journalist based in Pakistan. He has published his work in the New York Times, The Guardian, Deutsche Welle, The National, The Diplomat, Daily Dawn, Firstpost, the Herald magazine, and the Balochistan Times.