PAKISTAN: AHRC supports focus of Pakistan’s human rights community on disappearances to educate the public about this major human rights problem in the country

Human rights activists in Pakistan are focusing throughout this week on the issue of disappearances before the observance of International Human Rights Day on December 10. As part of the week’s activities, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is holding a press conference on the country’s disappearances on December 6 at the Karachi Press Club where family members of the disappeared will share their painful experiences. This action was long awaited as the number of disappearances of politically active people has been increasing every year since 2001 when the “war on terror” began.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) appreciates the efforts that have been made to organise this press conference during this week of protest on disappearances and to offer the families of the victims a platform from which to inform others about these tragedies that have unexpectedly afflicted their lives. To stop these abductions, it is necessary to mobilise public opinion in Pakistan against forced disappearances that are being perpetrated by the country’s security forces.

Disappearances after arrest by members of the security forces are a new phenomenon in Pakistan that has emerged after 9/11 and the beginning of the “war on terror.” Disappearances have become so common under Pakistan’s current military government that it does not bother to respect the orders of the judiciary. Family members of the victims only have the option to knock on the doors of the country’s courts for justice, but the higher courts have failed to satisfy the desire of Pakistan’s people for justice. The judiciary’s inaction has merely abetted the growing numbers of disappearances and abductions at the hands of the security forces. Indeed, the higher judiciary is, in reality, accomplices to the perpetrators. Although it is difficult to ascertain how many people have disappeared since the beginning of the “war on terror,” independent sources, including human rights organisations, newspapers and political parties, list about 4,000 people in Balochistan, about 1,000 people in Northwest Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan and 100 people in Sindh Province. The higher judiciary though has not been able to produce even a single disappeared person through its own efforts (please see AHRC’s statement “Pakistan: Judiciary responsible for failure to address disappearances” [AS-181-2006] issued on July 28, 2006).

The courts were informed by people released by the military that they had seen in army torture camps some of those who had disappeared, but the courts have not bothered to fulfil their constitutional obligations and have not ordered an inquiry into  these allegations or ordered the government to produce the victims before the courts.

The AHRC calls for the immediate constitution of a high-powered commission to be set up by Parliament to investigate the growing number of disappeared people in Pakistan. We repeat our appeal to all concerned people, including journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers and relatives of victims, to become actively involved in pressing the government to see such a commission established and the persistent abductions and killings brought to an end at once.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-301-2006
Countries : Pakistan,