Missing persons

April 18, 2018

The chairman of Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, during briefing to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights accused former president Pervez Musharraf and Qaumi Watan Party chairman Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao of secretly profiting by selling Pakistani citizens to foreign powers. According to Justice (retd) Javed over 4,000 Pakistanis were handed to foreigners. He said that Musharraf had himself admitted to having done so and that the parliament did not raise its voice against the former president and interior minister. Justice (retd) Javed said that Musharraf should have been questioned that according to which law was he handing people to foreign elements. He also claimed that there was no provision in the country’s law for such extraditions.

The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances was initially established for six months in March 2011. However, last year, the government extended the tenure of the commission for another three years. Justice (retd) Javed also briefed the committee about the performance of the commission. He said that from March 2011 to February 2018, the commission resolved a total of 3,219 cases. Currently, he added, the commission is investigating 1,710, while additional 368 cases were received from the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances during the past few years, majority of which have been resolved. Another revelation made by Justice (retd) Javed was that in 70 per cent of the cases, the missing persons were found involved in militancy. He also claimed that the claimed number of missing persons from Balochistan is contrary to facts.

The issue of enforced disappearances or missing persons has been a burning topic in Pakistan. The issue has also caused Pakistan some international embarrassment as such cases are often highlighted in the international media. In its recently released annual report for 2017, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has also underscored the rising incidence of enforced disappearances. The report said that in 2017, disappearances became a nationwide issue with the targeting of bloggers, activists, journalists and others all over Pakistan.

The report was also critical of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances and said that it failed to initiate criminal proceeding against any of the perpetrators of enforced disappearances and, by the end of the year, it had 1,498 cases pending before it.

The claim by Justice (retd) Javed that former president Pervez Musharraf profited by selling Pakistani citizens to foreign powers is of a serious nature and must be investigated. The content of the HRCP report on enforced disappearances is also of very serious nature and shows that the issue is far from over; urgent and serious steps are needed to address the embarrassing and dangerous issue. The reported claim by Justice (retd) Javed that foreign agencies illegally apprehend people in Pakistan must also be investigated.

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