PAKISTAN: Call to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance without any reservation

A Report by the Asian Human Rights Commission/Asian Legal Resource Centre to the 113 session of United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID)

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) are concerned about the increase in cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan. The state has utterly and miserably failed to restraints law enforcement agencies that are behind the enforced disappearances in Pakistan, which are indulging in the practice with impunity. Gross violations of human rights in Pakistan is thelegacy of this impunity.

Enforced disappearance is frequently used as a strategy to spread terror within society. The feeling of insecurity and fear it generates is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects communities and society as a whole.

According to the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan, during the last six years, the Commission has received 3,740 complaints from different parts of the country.

Of these, 121 cases were reported from the national capital, Islamabad, 752 cases were reported from the country’s largest province, Punjab.1,010 cases were registered from Sindh Province, where the country’s largest port city Karachi is located. 276 cases were reported from Baluchistan and 112 cases from the Federally Administrated Tribal Area (FATA).

Of the total number of complaints received by the Commission, the Commission has stopped from proceeding in 296 cases. This is because the Commission is of the view that these cases were abduction for ransom. According to the Commission’s report, the total number of cases that processed up to 31 March 2017 is 2,652.

The of Pakistan has been engagedin this barbarity for quite some time. This despite repeated calls for taking immediate affirmative actions to contain the practice of disappearances from the UN as well as from the WGEID. Besides,has refrained from signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. It also suggests Pakistan is not committed to ensuring justice for serious human rights violations.

The WGEID in its 2012 report on Pakistan has observed that Pakistan’scounterterrorism legislationsallow arbitrary deprivation of liberty. The WGEID has observed that these laws are a catalyst for enforced disappearances. These laws include the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997, and the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA)/Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) Action (in aid of civil powers) Regulations 2011.

In fact, illegal and arbitrary detention, disappearances, extra-judicial executions, and custodial torture are provided with and constitutional protection by the government. This is through the court’s and government’s application and interpretation of the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO), amendments brought into the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, and the formation of military courts for summary trials. The law enforcement agencies have unbridled powers to arrests, detain persons incommunicado, or shoot at sight under these laws. Under the guise of these legislations and powers conferred therein, state agencies routinely detain persons for long periods of time, even beyond what is provided in these draconian legislations.

The government of Pakistan has so far denied any involvement in the matter. For example, during the third UPR of Pakistan, the government, upon being probed about reported cases of disappearances, categorically denied the existence of any disappearanceswithin Pakistan. Thisis despite the fact that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, a State body, has admitted that enforced disappearances are occurring in Pakistan.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has reported that prosecuted by military tribunals are subjected to enforced disappearances, torture, and other ill-treatment. These allegations have not been adequately investigated, giving rise to concerns about convictions based on confessions. 326 people have been executed in Pakistan in 2015, many of them based on such convictions by military courts. According to an ICJ’s report, military courts have convicted 274 individuals and handed down 161 death sentences.

The government, under strong pressure from the military, is hesitant to criminalize enforced disappearances. The armed forces do not allow Pakistan’s Intelligence gencies to be brought under civilian oversight. They also are not accountable to the parliament.

The Supreme Court and the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances had demanded that there should be a law to regulate the operation of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. However, successive governments have failed to do so, due to threats from the armed forces.

In December 2016, the Senate had unanimously adopted half a dozen recommendations, including a draft legislation, to oversee the functioning of intelligence agencies. However, the Senate failed to pursue the matter. The recommendations adopted by the Senate, included legislation to criminalize enforced disappearances, bringing state agencies under a law and the ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

It is ironic and a failure of the government that until today, not a single perpetrator of the crime of enforced disappearances have been made accountable due to the absence of a law.

Mass graves in Balochistan province:

The discovery of mass graves continues in Balochistan. In 2014, three mass graves were discovered containing the remains of 103 bodies. The government announced an inquiry, but no report has been published as to who these persons are?

In 2016, 15 mass graves were found in Dera Bugti, Chaghi and Khuzdar districts. According to the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP), a mass-based civil society action group, more than 24 bodies were unearthed so far.

The latest disappearances reported from Sindh province

The AHRC has reported a sudden increase in instances of disappearances after arrests before the impendence day of Pakistan, August 14. A so far unknown nationalist group, operating in the name and style ” All Fata Political Parties Alliance” has made a public call to observe coming August 14 as a black day in Pakistan. However,law enforcement agencies have started a drive against the civil society activists in Sindh province. The AHRC has issued an Urgent Appeal about this issue.

Reported cases from 2016 to date

Iindependent sources claim that no single day goes by without illegal arrests. Most arrests culminate in disappearances, particularly when the Inter Services Intelligence (makes such arrests. On September 1, 2016, Balochistan’s provincial inister for interior affairs stated that under the Pakistan Protection Ordinance (PPO) more than 13,500 people have been arrested in Balochistan during one and a half years, through the National Action Plan. State officials are unable to provide details or the whereabouts of the “arrested” people. Even the relatives of the victims are unaware of the fate of their family members. More than 150 dead bodies of missing persons, with torture marks on the bodies, were found by the wayside. The Voice of Baloch Missing Persons claims that it has a documented 4300 cases of disappearances from Balochistan within the past 10 years. These persons are reported missing after their arrests by intelligence agency, the policemen or civilians raided their homes. Voice of Baloch Missing Persons claims that of those arrested not even 100 persons were released secret places where these persons have been detained.

Since the beginning of 2017, the state agencies target anyone who publically expresses political dissent including social media activists and bloggers. For instance Mr. Salman Haider, Professor at Fatima Jinnah University, Islamabad, Waqas Goraya, Netherlands-based, Asim Saeed, of Lahore, Mr. Ahmed Raza Naseer, of Shekhupura, Punjab and Samar Abbas, resident of Karachi, were disappeared after their arrests in the first ten days of 2017. Except for Samar Abass the other bloggers were released due to pressure from the International Community and civil society. They deemed the disappearances as a direct attack on the freedom of expression and personal liberty of the bloggers. A case of blasphemy is now pending in the Courts against them.

As per media reports, a number of missing persons, whose cases were being heard by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, were later found detained at internment centers maintained by the intelligence agencies. The exact number of ‘missing persons’ convicted by the military courts is still not known. The media reported that several missing persons are being tried in the military courts that handed down death sentences after a summary trial.

The AHRC/ALRC has been one of the few organizations working on the issue of involuntary disappearances in Pakistan. It is one of the few voices left that has not been stifled by state sanctions, arbitrary action and harassment. The AHRC/ALRC has reported several cases of disappearances through its Urgent Appeals program and has been questioning the authorities in Pakistan about the actions they have taken to end this.

The latest of such reporting was made on 28 July2017 regarding the disappearance of a young man named Sajjad in Sindh province. His two older brothers had already been extra-judicially executed. Eighteen year old Sajjad went to Karachi from his village to meet his assassinated brother’s family, and was abducted there. Sajjad was affiliated with the Sindh Human Rights Organization (SHRO), an NGO working for human rights.

Members of the minority Shia community are also not spared from being disappeared. As recently as 12 July 2017, two brothers Mohammad Ali Kashifi and Nasir Abbas Shah who were studying in Iran and Iraq, were taken into custody, illegally, from their house in the Kabirwala District in Punjab province. They had returned temporarily to Pakistan for medical treatment and marriage. The brothers, who are also religious scholars, were taken into illegal custody and have been disappeared since then.

Politically motivated enforced disappearances continue according to reports made by Jeay Sindh Qoumi Muhaz (JSQM), JSQM-Arisar, and Jeay Sindh Muttehda Mahaz (JSMM)These are Sindhi nationalist groups. At least 35 members of these parties remain missing many months after their arrests by agencies like the Pakistan Rangers, the ISI and police. The government has failed to report their whereabouts since their arrest.

A recent trend in disappearance is that involving minors. The AHRC has reported and documented two cases of enforced disappearances of minors in 2017.

According to the list of missing persons, prepared by Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP),among those documented as missing 170 were children and women. In one instance, a schoolteacher, the mother of a one-year-old son, was picked up.

On 24th May 2017, the AHRC reported the enforced disappearances of four persons from Sindh Province in its Urgent Appeal 037/2017. The men disappeared after being picked up from their homes by the intelligence agencies. These include a famous writer, a teacher, a government employee, and an Ahmadi. All four detainees, Mr. Ghulam Raza Jarwar, Mr. Ali Ahmed Bughio, Mr. Shadi Khan Soomro, Mr. Abdul Aziz- are from Badin District, Sindh Province. The police denied their arrest and have advised the family members to take up the matter with other authorities. Family members fear that those who are now in custody will be extra-judicially executed.

The case of Mr. Ghulam Raza Jarwar is particularly important since he was abducted once previously. He was kept at a military detention center for a few months before being released. The media has quoted sources from the security establishment saying that the four disappeared persons are accused of being associated with an entity called Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (Arisar group), a nationalist party, known to be working against terrorist activities.

In another case reported by the AHRC in its Urgent Appeal 025 on April 17, 2017 relates to the case of Mr. Hidayatullah Lohar. He is the Headmaster of a government primary school in Golo Ganwans village, Naseerabad, Qambar Shahdadkot District, Sindh province. Four plainclothes personnel and two police officers arrested Lohar. The same day Mr. Khadim Arijo, son of Daud Arijo, superintendent at Ministry of Food of Sindh, was arrested. Both Mr. Arijo and Mr. Lohar have been taken in custody after being accused of their affiliation with Jeay Sindh Quami Mahaz.

However, the families of both victims deny their relatives’ affiliation with any nationalist or political group. Four more activists of Jeay Sindh Quami Mahaz (Bashir Querashi group), Dr. Shayan Arijo, Mr. Aijaz Tunio, Agha Shahzaman and Bux Ali Mugheri were taken into custody by state agencies in the last week of March 2017. They were from the Hyderabad and Naseerabad districts respectively. Their whereabouts are unknown. Their family members have been threatened not to inform the media or the public.

On 3 August 2017, the AHRC reported in its Urgent Appeal 108/2017 of the illegal detention and disappearances of a 16 year old boy and a 21 year old man from Hyderabad Sindhprovince. The young boy, Master Saif Jatoi, the son of a prominent columnist was taken from his home and dragged off by officials in plainclothes. The police (as is often the case) refused to register a case of abduction. A writ petition of habeas corpus regarding the boy’s disappearance is pending in the court.

21 year old Mr. Mumtaz Somroo was also picked up by plainclothes officers on 9 July 2017. Being extremely poor, the family is unable bear the legal costs to pursue a complaint through court. The family has not approached the ourts seeking justice and the police have not registered a case.

The intelligence agencies have not spared intellectuals and political activists of mainstream political parties. Early this year three aides of former president Mr. Asif Ali Zardari were picked up by the state agencies. The disappeared aides included Mr. Ghulam Qadir Marri, Mr. Ashfaque Leghari and Mr. Nawaz Leghari. Although they were released a month later from incommunicado detention, the message was conveyed to the political parties by the intelligence agencies that they dare not cross the line.


The government of Pakistan must;

a. Ratify without delay the the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance without any reservation;

b. Criminalise enforced forced disappearance under domestic law, in line with international law and standards;

c. Ensure full cooperation by the military and intelligence services with the judiciary and the judicial commission into disappearances, and ensure the full implementation of the commissions’ recommendations

d. Ensure the immediate closure of all illegal secret detention centres operated by the security forces and intelligence services;

e. Ensure civilian oversight of the military and intelligence services, and

f. Immediately locate the whereabouts of all missing persons, release all persons being detained illegally, and ensure missing persons families’ rights to truth and reparation, in line with international standards;

g. Ensure full, effective and independent investigations into all allegations of forced disappearances, bringing those responsible to justice