‘Pakistan’s Enforced Disappearance Nightmare Continues’

The government of Pakistan’s appointed Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances admitted in June 2018 that it had received 5,177 cases of alleged enforced disappearances since its inception in 2011. According to a news report “During the past 15 years, families of separatists, members of ethno-nationalist political parties, peace activists, members of Islamist factions, and critics of the military have frequently accused authorities of either orchestrating enforced disappearances or failing to help in finding their loved ones. The northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province together with the merged areas of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas have the highest number of cases. The commission’s data says that out of 2,157 reported cases in the region, the commission has resolved 967 cases and is still working on 983.”

According to Amnesty International’s March 2019 report titled ‘Enduring Enforced Disappearances,’ “Enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize the practice, there has been slow movement on legislation while people continue to be forcibly disappeared with impunity.”

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance “has more than 700 cases pending from Pakistan. The number of cases of victims of enforced disappearance recorded by victim groups are much higher. Victim groups and the civil society have serious concerns with regards to the effectiveness of Pakistan’s COIED, primarily that it is not using its powers to investigate and hold the perpetrators accountable and that it does not have civil society or the victim groups representation on its board.”

Today, August 30, on the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan expressed “solidarity with all victims of enforced disappearance the world over. Our thoughts are also with those Kashmiris who have been forcibly disappeared as part of the state crackdown in India-held Kashmir.” 

HRCP called “on the Pakistan government to carry through its long overdue promise to criminalise enforced disappearances under the Pakistan Penal Code. The state must also acknowledge allegations that the official data sorely underreports the numbers of forcibly disappeared persons – something that many victims’ groups and human rights organisations have consistently pointed out. This makes it all the more necessary for the findings of the 2010 Judicial Commission on Enforced Disappearances to be made public. HRCP draws urgent attention to the need for Pakistan to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. ‘Internal political instability or any other public emergency’ are no grounds for justifying enforced disappearances. Equally, the internment centres to which numerous forcibly disappeared persons have been traced, must be declared unconstitutional. As such, these centres are black holes and have no place in a democratic structure that entitles a detained person to know what they have been charged with, the right to a fair trial and the right to remain in contact with their families and with legal counsel.”

Author: Shaista Sindhu

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Author: Shaista Sindhu