Pakistan Needs to End Enforced Disappearances


Pakistan has a long history of ‘enforced disappearances’ – where the deep state is responsible for the disappearance of anyone who they see as a threat.


August 30 is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances and on that day the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed “grave concern over the lack of progress not only in tracing victims but also holding perpetrators accountable. Despite repeated calls for action from civil society, including victims’ families, the state has failed to legislate against enforced disappearances. The next elected government—if it is serious about upholding principles of justice and accountability—cannot afford to drag its feet on this matter.”


Even though a special cell was created at the General Headquarters in July 2019 “there had been no progress towards eliminating enforced disappearances. Mr Babar emphasised that repeated demands for victims’ release and recovery had fallen on deaf ears, emanating from high-powered cabinet and parliamentary committees as well as the Peshawar High Court. He reiterated the need for transparency and accountability, strongly urging the authorities concerned to shut down extra-legal internment centres where many victims of enforced disappearance were allegedly held. Mr Babar also said that political bickering over the enforced disappearances bill and its constant removal from the parliamentary agenda underscored the fecklessness of state stakeholders in making any progress on the issue.”


HRCP chairperson Hina Jilani “stressed the importance of defining and punishing the offence in line with international standards. She condemned the use of torture, extrajudicial killings and secret detentions, emphasising the need for a robust legal framework that protects civil liberties. Ms Jilani also raised strong concerns over the dismal performance of the Commission for Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, emphasising that accountability must extend to those ordering or allowing such violations to occur. ‘Claims of “neutrality” from those responsible’, she added, ‘stand exposed.’”