Activists demand enforced disappearances cease

Senator Sherry Rehman speaking at the National consultation on Human Rights and Challenges in Pakistan.

Senator Sherry Rehman speaking at the National consultation on Human Rights and Challenges in Pakistan.

KARACHI: In light of the changing dimensions of human rights challenges emerging in the country, a ‘National Consultation on Human Rights Challenges’ was organised by the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) and the European Union at a local hotel on Thursday.

NCHR shared its recommendations on the issue of enforced disappearances in the country through the release of its report, “The Unending Saga of Enforced Disappearances”.

According to the report, the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded more than 700 pending cases from Pakistan while the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances has received a total of 5,549 cases of enforced disappearances, which is considerably low as compared to the number of cases reported by the civil society.

The report calls for Pakistan to sign and ratify the UN International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPED) and recommends setting up a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the cases of enforced disappearances and address the long-standing grievances of the people of Balochistan and tribal regions.

Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Sherry Rehman, speaking about the role of parliamentarians to promote human rights, said, “There needs to be a clear commitment to stand against encroachments on human rights. The struggle for democracy is always incomplete if we are unable to advance a progressive rights agenda.”

Who feels the pain?

MNA Muhammad Akhtar Mengal from Balochistan National Party (Mengal) BNP-M, highlighted the grievances of the families of missing persons in Balochistan.

“Only those who are suffering the pain of losing their loved ones can feel the pain that they are going through,” he said. “There are thousands of cases of missing persons reported in the country but the figures in Balochistan are considerably high.”

“Since our talks with the federal government, we’ve been successful in securing the release of around 119 people in Balochistan, many of whom had been missing for four to five years. But sadly, around 45 people have also been killed in fake operations,” he added.

Akhtar called for the federal government to announce an amnesty in order to improve the political situation of Balochistan. “Unfortunately, what we see is that only those who were missing in the past are released and even more people are abducted now. We’ve gone to everyone. How long can we wait for justice?”

Sorath Lohar, convener of the Voice of Missing Persons, Sindh, said that cases of enforced disappearances continue to be reported across Sindh.

Lohar decried the treatment of people in Sindh. “What is the crime of those missing? I have a right to know why my father was picked up. He is a teacher and he was picked up in front of his students,” she said, requesting the Chief Justice of Pakistan to intervene and bring the victims of enforced disappearances back.

“What we are seeing is a gross violation of human rights. We are demanding security from those abducting people with impunity. Even if those missing are accused of being anti-state, they should be tried by the courts instead of going missing without a trace because we have a right to know if our loved ones are safe and sound,” she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2018.

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