Enforced disappearances are common in Pakistan but according to recent data more than 40,000 women were abducted in Punjab in the last 5 years. In effect that means 8,000 females each year, around 650 each month, go missing. According to an investigative report in Dawn, police “claim they have recovered or traced 37,140 of them while the whereabouts of 3,571 remain unknown.”
A lot of these facts came to light when the Supreme Court of Pakistan took up the case of the abduction and disappearance of Sobia Batool from Sargodha. “Members of a Supreme Court bench expressed surprise when they were informed that 151 abducted girls — all of them hailing from Sargodha — have been recovered by police from different areas of Punjab since Jan 5.”
This points to a bigger issue in Pakistan, that of law-enforcement apathy as the majority of these victims are from the lower socioeconomic strata. Even if they are able to register an FIR, the police are reluctant to investigate these abductions and tend to dismiss these cases as elopements without even trying to find out whether an elopement is genuine or a pretext for luring a woman into something very sinister.
Further, as an editorial in Dawn pointed out, “Human trafficking is a very real problem, and women can be trafficked for sex within the country. There is also a dearth of resources and training, including sensitisation towards the many forms an ‘abduction’ can take. Given the scale of the issue, it would make sense to have a department within law enforcement, with a preponderance of female cops, dedicated to pursuing cases of missing women.”
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