When you hear the word ‘enforced disappearance’ it is sad but the first country you will think of is Pakistan. At one time, the issue of enforced disappearances was primarily a problem in Pakistan’s peripheries. Pakistan’s sub-nationalities: Baloch, Sindhi, Muhajir, Seraiki, or Pashtun would go ‘missing’. Rights activists and journalists were also whisked away if their work rubbed the powers that be the wrong way.
However, over time the blight of enforced disappearances has become almost normalised in our society, with hardly any voice being raised against the unlawful detention of citizens. As an editorial in Dawn noted with concern “What is worse is that people have come to terms with the fact that individuals go ‘missing’ in Pakistan and if they’re lucky, will miraculously turn up one day. However, if the victims are not so lucky, families will be called to collect a body bag.”
During a recent hearing at the Islamabad High Court, the bench asked the attorney general to bring up the issue of missing persons with the caretaker prime minister. However, as Dawn editorial states, “
With due respect to their lordships, this issue requires all power wielders in Pakistan to take a strong stand against enforced disappearances, and indeed all violations of the constitutional order. Where the missing persons’ question is specifically concerned, the chief justice of Pakistan, who has been a high-profile advocate of this issue, can ask unelected forces where they stand on this and the steady erosion of fundamental rights. Moreover, little can be expected from the caretakers; only an elected government can forcefully raise these issues, and bring these deplorable practices to an end. But perhaps most importantly, it is the power elite that can initiate change. Is the state comfortable with the fact that Pakistan is seen as a lawless land, where people disappear and are arbitrarily punished?”