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Pakistan Politics Top Stories

Judicial, Political and Military Leadership Unwilling to Resolve the Issue of Missing Persons

Judicial, political, and military leadership are unwilling to resolve the issue of missing persons, as they keep the matter hanging. Parliament has not passed any legislation, and the court can summon the Prime Minister but lacks the power to hold powerful individuals accountable. Political parties have no interest in the matter, and those involved in enforced disappearances are given impunity. Security institutions are blamed by the families of the missing persons for the forced disappearances and are struggling to form a commission to address the issue.

Various individuals, including the Provincial Secretary of Jamaat-e-Islami Balochistan and the leader of the Gwadar Haqooq-e-Tahaffuz Movement, Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch, Vice Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asad Iqbal Butt, former federal minister Shireen Mazari’s daughter, and human rights activist Imaan Zainab Mazari, former Vice Chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council and renowned legal expert Abid Saqi, Chairperson of Defense of Human Rights Amina Masood Janjua, and the Registrar of the Commission established for the recovery of missing persons, Fareed Ahmed Khan, have expressed their views on the issue.

Maulana Hidayat-ur-Rehman Baloch stated that no government has made any efforts to recover missing persons in the past 15 years. He emphasized that the role of parliamentarians is not to sit in the assembly with black armbands but to raise their voices for the rights of the poor. So far, Parliament has not enacted any legislation concerning missing persons, and Pakistani authorities, including Law enforcement agencies, the criminal justice system, and the military justice system, have withheld from resolving the issue of enforced disappearances. He added that if all superior courts intervene proactively, the recovery of missing persons is possible. The commission established in March 2011 for the recovery of missing persons has failed to provide justice to the affected individuals. Instead of ensuring justice to the victims of enforced disappearances, the commission has not been able to locate and recover even one-third of the missing persons and no action has been taken against any of the responsible individuals. It is the responsibility of the state to promptly recover forcibly disappeared persons and ensure the protection of every person according to the law. If there is any case against someone, it should be presented in court. He stated that the number of enforced disappearances and missing persons is increasing day by day. The issue of enforced disappearances started during the government of Pervez Musharraf when Pakistan joined hands with the United States in the latter’s ‘War on Terror. Since then, a never-ending series of missing persons has begun. He said that the highest number of missing persons is in Balochistan, but similar incidents have also occurred in Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Waziristan. However, the number of forcibly disappeared persons is significantly higher in Balochistan. When the relatives of these missing persons record protests or sit in front of the press club, the government does not discuss resolving the issue but rather criticizes and condemns it. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) show interest in the issue of missing persons before coming into power but once they are in power, they forget their promises and start acting like those responsible for the abduction of our people. The issue of missing persons should be taken seriously. The relatives, including women, elders, and children of the missing persons are tired of running from one court to another. The commission created for missing persons claims every month that people have been recovered, but it is never disclosed what action has been taken against the responsible individuals. And the government keeps neglecting this matter.

Asad Umar Butt said that political parties and courts should decide whether they really want to recover these missing persons or not. Courts have immense powers. They can question federal secretaries and officials of other relevant authorities and even impose punishments on them. Similarly, various committees of Parliament can summon officials from the Ministry of Interior and other relevant ministries. Until the courts effectively enforce the law of punishment and retribution, this issue will not be resolved. Whoever has taken someone unlawfully into custody should be punished according to the law. Political parties show interest in the issue of missing persons before coming into power, but as soon as they come into power, they forget about this issue.

Imaan Zainab Mazari, an advocate, said that the issue of missing persons remains unresolved because the stakeholders, including political and military leadership, do not have the intention to take any action to resolve cases of enforced disappearances. Accountability processes in these institutions have become paralyzed. To date, no trial has been conducted for any of the perpetrators responsible for the disappearances. Both the political and military leadership are involved in these cases. On the other hand, various groups are running movements concerning enforced disappearances, and it is necessary for them to remain active. These movements are gradually gaining momentum. No political or military leadership has shown seriousness regarding the issue of missing persons or enforced disappearances. The issue of missing persons or enforced disappearances is a grave one. The families of these individuals claim that their loved ones are forcibly taken by security agencies and are not presented before the courts.

Abid Saqi said that the issue of missing persons remains unresolved because no government that comes to power considers it a serious matter. Until the law is strengthened in this regard and the perpetrators are made to feel the consequences of their actions, it will be difficult to stop such incidents. Regarding this matter, a bill to declare enforced disappearances as a crime was passed in the National Assembly by the PTI government, but it has not been approved by the Senate yet.

Ameena Masood Janjua said that if the courts make sincere efforts to resolve the issue of missing persons, some progress can be made in solving this problem. However, there are limitations to judicial powers, and sometimes interference in certain cases has a negative impact.  The Judiciary can summon the Prime Minister, Interior Minister, and politicians, but she cannot summon powerful individuals. After coming to power, neither Maryam Nawaz nor Bilawal Zardari has contacted the families of missing persons. The commission formed regarding missing persons is a facade, and its task is to prolong the issue. Even in the next ten years, the commission will not be able to resolve the problem.

Farid Ahmed Khan said that the commission formed regarding missing persons submits its report regularly every month. The head and other members of the commission listen to the families of missing persons and remain committed to the safe return of missing persons. The commission has submitted monthly progress reports to the Supreme Court. From January to June, the Commission for Enforced Disappearances registered 533 new cases of enforced disappearances. In June of the previous year, 59 missing persons were reunited with their families. Currently, the commission has received a total of 9,736 cases of missing persons, out of which it has resolved 7,439 cases. Work is ongoing on 2,297 cases of missing persons.

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