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An Afghan woman shows her voter registration card.
Afghan officials have dismissed a Taliban threat to disrupt the April 5 presidential election as a "mere propaganda effort."

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Najib Danesh, said on March 10 that the Taliban wants to "disseminate panic" among people.

Danesh said the ministry has worked out a concrete plan to ensure security during the election.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission said "all election workers are ordinary civilians" and that "civilians should not be targeted."

The Taliban said in a statement e-mailed to news agencies on March 10 that "we have given orders to all our mujahedin to use all force at their disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections."

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the Taliban is telling clerics across the country to spread the word that the election is "an American conspiracy."

The statement said Taliban fighters would "target all workers, activists, callers, security apparatus, and offices" and that Afghans should reject the vote and not put themselves in harm's way by voting.

Previous Afghan elections have been marred by violence, with at least 31 civilians and 26 soldiers and police killed on polling day in 2009.

The April 5 election is to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has led the country since the UN-backed Bonn deal in late 2001.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP
A wave of kidnappings and enforced disappearances has swept through Pakistani province of Balochistan.
The families of suspected Baloch separatists, dubbed "missing persons," claim their loved ones are being abducted by Pakistani security agencies without charges.

These family members, as well as human-rights watchdogs, claim that the suspected Baloch separatists are frequently killed and their bodies dumped. Others remain missing years after having been picked up.

A new short film, "The Line of Freedom," hopes to shed light on this largely forgotten crisis. It depicts the story of a Baloch activist who was abducted and tortured and then dumped after being shot.

The movie is based on the "true" story of a young Baloch activist, Nasir Baloch. Activists in the region claim Baloch was abducted twice in 2011. He reportedly survived the first abduction after he was shot and left for dead. He was later killed after being kidnapped for a second time while on his way to the doctor to treat his wounds.

The thriller was produced by Baloch political activist Noordin Mengal, his brother Bhawal Mengal, and British filmmaker David Whitney. Mengal says his aim was to spread awareness about the problems in the province.

WATCH: A full version of the movie is available on YouTube:



The issue is also kept alive by family members of some of the victims of the disappearances in Balochistan. They are now holding a 700-kilometer-long march from Balochistan's provincial capital, Quetta, to Pakistan's largest city, Karachi.

The protest, which began in late October, is being led by Mama Qadeer Baloch, whose son, Jalil Reiki, was abducted in 2009. His bullet-riddled body was found dumped in a remote corner of Balochistan in 2011.

Global human-rights watchdogs have criticized Islamabad for its "kill and dump" operations in Balochistan. A February 2012 briefing by Amnesty International noted that at least 249 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists, and lawyers disappeared or were abducted from October 2010 to September 2011. The briefing called on Islamabad to "immediately put an end to the practice of enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, and extra-judicial and other unlawful killings carried out with total impunity by state forces in Balochistan."

In a July 2011 report titled "We Can Torture, Kill, or Keep You for Years," Human Rights Watch (HRW) documented the "detailed descriptions of 45 cases of alleged enforced disappearances reported in Balochistan in 2009 and 2010." It called on Islamabad to "investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances until the fate of each victim is clearly and publicly established."

For years, the Pakistani Supreme Court has heard cases about the abductions but failed to push the authorities to either release the victims or hold transparent investigations into the issue. Elected civilian leaders in Balochistan have publicly admitted their failure in resolving the problem. Military officials, however, have largely been ambiguous about the practice.

Authorities in Balochistan now confirm some 2,500 people in the province remain "missing" since their arrest. Balochistan authorities say more than 590 mutilated bodies have been found in the province since 2010.

Baloch activists allege that more than 10,000 people, most of them sympathetic to separatists, have disappeared under unclear circumstances.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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