Over the last few decades Pakistan has seen several thousands of its citizens go “missing” — a euphemism for enforced disappearances believed to have been carried out by the Pakistani state. Individuals have been targeted across the country, hauled away with no recourse to due process. In many cases, there is no news of their whereabouts for months, even years.
Even though the Supreme Court of Pakistan has repeatedly criticised this practice, the Pakistani deep state has consistently refused to abandon it. Pakistan’s sub-nationalities – Baloch, Sindhi, Muhajir, Pashtun – have faced the brunt of this, though so have political cadres and civil society activists.
Just recently former Senator and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking the latter to direct provincial governments to provide lists of missing persons and identify those behind their disappearance.
As an editorial in Dawn stated, “It is hoped this effort succeeds where several past endeavours have failed, including the SC-mandated Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances. It is crucial for the state to investigate such cases, especially as ‘short-term disappearances’ have picked up pace over the recent past.”
As Dawn noted, while the focus today is on PTI workers and leaders, “the missing persons of Balochistan, KP and other areas should not be forgotten. The interim prime minister recently told a foreign media outlet that there were only 50 missing people in Balochistan according to UN figures. This is a classic example of denialism that nearly all ruling set-ups have indulged in, for, according to the missing persons’ commission’s own figures, the number of the missing from Balochistan is over 450. It is these attitudes that must change for enforced disappearances to end.”