PAKISTAN: The AHRC welcomes the formation of a Commission to probe missing persons’ cases 

April 12, 2010

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: The AHRC welcomes the formation of a Commission to probe missing persons’ cases

The Asian Human Rights Commission welcomes the formation of a Commission by the government of Pakistan to probe cases of missing persons. The three-member Commission would be headed by a by former Supreme Court Judge and two retired judges from the high courts.

The Attorney General, while updating the Supreme Court bench on the hearing of the cases of missing persons, said the Commission could call any senior officer of the armed forces or Rangers whose name had surfaced in connection with any missing person. He claims that the Commission would complete its recommendation expeditiously and submit its report to the government within four months. The Commission will have the authority to fix compensation for the missing persons. The commission has been given similar powers to that of the Supreme Court, including summoning military officers to give testimony.

The mandate of the commission has still not been officially announced by the government which delays the functioning of the commission.

The prime duty of any government is to ensure the security and safety of its citizens. It is better late than never that the issue of enforced and involuntary disappearances has eventually caught the attention of the government.

The formation of the Commission is a good indicator particularly against the background of a continuous phenomenon of disappearances by law enforcement agencies. The civilian government has failed to halt enforced disappearances. To add insult to injury, the civilian government has been apathetic to the state intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces which are, as claimed by the family members of the disappeared persons, solely responsible for arbitrary arrests and disappearances. It appears as if the state intelligence agencies are too arrogant to follow the orders of the higher courts and civilian rule.

The commission, in the context of an indifferent attitude of law enforcement authorities, has much responsibility to deliver the goods. It is shocking to note that the family members of disappeared persons have testified before the courts that the person was arrested in the presence of the police, by people in plain clothes who claimed to be officials of state intelligence agencies. However, the higher courts failed to bring the responsible authorities before the courts.

The AHRC suggests that the Commission should be made public and that the people should have access to the commission. The government should issue a notification for the formation of the commission so that it could start its work immediately and complete it within the prescribed time of four months. The government should provide every support towards the implementation of the orders of the commission. The commission has to prove itself by working independently from the government and powerful institutions which have never helped the higher courts to find the disappeared persons. The Commission should ensure that those persons who “disappeared” after arrests for many months and were kept incommunicado in different military torture cells necessarily depose before the Commission. These persons were dumped by state agencies when their cases were in courts, and never given a chance to narrate their plight about their disappearances. Bitter truths will have to be exposed to the cobalt rays of a responsible Commission for disappeared persons.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-060-2010
Countries : Pakistan,