August 31, 2020
By Our Reporter
Human rights campaigners have called for an independent statutory commission on enforced disappearances saying the present government appointed inquiry commission has proved itself ineffective in with dealing with cases. Enforced disappearances should be made a criminal act and state institutions held accountable, they said.
Speaking at a webinar, organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), to mark the International Day of Enforced Disappearances, I A Rehman said the present inquiry commission had proved ineffective in dealing with cases of enforced disappearances as its head was now chairman of the National Accountability Bureau. He called for an independent statutory commission to look into cases of enforced disappearances. The government should also immediately make public findings of the 2010 Judicial Commission on Enforced Disappearances.
He contested figures being presented by the inquiry commission saying that the cases were being under-reported. He said the authorities knew what to do to mitigate the situation. In 2014, a bill was presented in a parliament that defined enforced disappearance as well as it a criminal offence, Rehman added. He called upon the present government to legislate on the issue. He added that Pakistan must ratify UN convention on enforced disappearances.
Renowned human rights lawyer Hina Jillani was of the view that if Pakistan did not stem cases of those abducted it could invite sanctions from the United Nations Security Council. Enforced disappearances are a crime against humanity and part of the charter of the International Court of Justice, she added. She said all efforts should be made to draft proper legislation. She pointed out enforced disappearances in Sindh were reaching a proportion similar to that of Balochistan. Authorities were mostly targetting Sindhi nationalists and journalists, she added. The crimes that the state commits against its citizens should be enshrined in the laws, Jillani said.
Former Senator and human rights activist Afrasiab Khattak recalled that enforced disappearances in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa gained momentum after the September 11 attacks in the United States. Pakistan launched military operations in Swat and tribal areas against the Taliban, he added. The enforced disappearances are a result of the military personnel having no powers to arrest, therefore they don’t acknowledge having people in their detention, he said. Presently, he said that enforced disappearances were hurting the credibility of the state. He called for reclaiming control of the Constitutional system.
Habib Tahir said enforced disappearances in Balochistan jumped in numbers after the death of Akbar Bugti in 2006.
The number of ‘disappearances’ still happening in the province was quite greater than quoted by official data.
“The families are not approaching courts or rights bodies because they were often told that their loved ones would return if they waited a few days,” he added. Tahir said victims must also be compensated for their sufferings.