An alleged tacit approval of policy regarding enforced disappearances has prompted Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court Justice Athar Minallah to issue a directive to the federal government to send notices to former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf and all his successive chief executives of the country, including incumbent Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as to why proceedings should not be initiated against them for subversion of the constitution. The court has issued this directive in the missing persons’ case, which has escalated into a national tragedy. According to the chief justice, the buck stops with the federal government and it is solely to be held accountable for any subversive act or omission of the armed forces. So far, the security apparatus in Pakistan has an upper hand as the forced disappearances reports are mostly denied, and the mental anguish of missing persons’ extended families are rising as they don’t get a definitive answer from the agencies or the authorities concerned, the only answer families get is that the government spokesperson denies the allegations. The severity of the situation demands fixation of the responsibility and the court has deemed it fit to hold the current and previous chief executives of the country responsible for the subjugation of this basic human right. There are numerous cases that remain unsolved as mystery shrouds these abductions allegedly done by security agencies. Statistics regarding the missing persons from Punjab, Balochistan, Sindh and other restive areas are appalling. According to a report presented by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances to the court, 2,249 cases of missing persons are still pending with it while the highest number of pending cases is from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
In Balochistan, human rights situation is getting worse day-by-day. In Sindh, such disappearances have intensified while it has become a general phenomenon in Makran. Though, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Amnesty International are also 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, 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 the 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 ‘well-being’ of the people. In this regard, the intervention of the high court would surely provide some relief to the families of the missing persons. Finally, someone, holding a position of authority, has dared to address the missing persons issue. Let’s hope the court proceedings will swiftly occur on the matter, and will produce a meaningful result.