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EditorialLegislation over missing persons’ issue

Legislation over missing persons’ issue

In a bid to quell growing anguish over the missing person issue roiling in society, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has finally given his words to introduce a bill in the National Assembly on enforced disappearances. It is strange to note that Pakistani nationals go missing while their families remain in quest of their whereabouts for years and such reports continue to make rounds on mainstream media. Among these missing persons, some fortunate ones return homes and reveal horrible stories of their captivation while a large number of cases remain untraceable.

Despite the intervention of the higher judiciary, the matter has not been resolved yet. Mainly such incidents take place in Balochistan and Sindh where dissent voices are silenced through force. So far, the security apparatus in Pakistan has an upper hand as the reports of the forced disappearance are mostly denied, and the mental anguish of missing persons’ extended families continues to rise as they don’t get a definitive answer from the agencies, the only answer families get is that the government spokesman denies the allegations.

In most cases, mystery shrouds such abductions allegedly done by security agencies. Statistics regarding the missing persons from Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and other restive areas are appalling. Though the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances does exist, its role has remained limited to presenting the data on missing persons’ cases and remedial measures are still missing. According to the Commission, Enforced Disappearance/Missing Person means such person as has been picked up/taken into custody by any Law Enforcing/Intelligence Agency, working under civilian or military control, in a manner which is contrary to the provisions of the law. The persons, who have gone missing in cases of kidnapping for ransom, personal enmity or on their own, do not fall within the ambit of the Enforced Disappearances (ED). The Commission has compiled a list of 8718 missing persons and among them, a large number of cases are still under investigation. This speaks volumes of the gravity of the situation. Though the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and Amnesty International are raising their voice, yet it seems that they are as helpless as other institutions like the judiciary that have failed to deliver justice to the missing victims and their families.

Silencing voices through the use of force cannot yield desired results. Rather, it would give birth to mutiny and more chaos in the country. Pakistan should not be made a banana state. Moreover, the reluctance of the police to register missing persons’ cases gives birth to suspicion about the involvement of powerful authorities in these abductions. The problem is that certain powerful institutions do not want the involvement of courts where it would be difficult to prove their case. Therefore, it is easier to act as the judge, jury and the executioner themselves with no right of defence to the victim whatsoever, and justify it all in the name of national security and the well-being of the people.

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