Interior Minister lacks evidence to hold agencies responsible for missing persons

A parliamentary committee on Wednesday observed that the Commission on Enforced Disappearances has failed to fix responsibility on individuals and organisations involved in enforced disappearances.

The Functional Committee of the Senate on Human Rights observed that the Commission on Enforced Disappearances claims to have traced over 2,000 missing persons during the last six years though there is no word on whether it also recorded the statement of even one of these victims.
“Many of the so-called ‘recovered’ were dead bodies. Did the commission initiate any investigation or prosecution against officials involved,” asked Senator Farhatullah Babar.
The committee met after a requisition was made by senators Farhatullah Babar, Nisar Mohammad and Mohammad Mohsin Khan Leghari for the progress made by the commission in regards to inquiring into enforced disappearances.
During the meeting, Senator Babar proposed a performance evaluation of the commission in light of the terms under which it was established and reporting the findings to the Senate committee, with which members of the parliamentary committee agreed.
He said performance evaluation of the commission in two critical functions is important.
“The first is the fixing of responsibility on individuals or organisations for enforced disappearances and the second is to register or make directions for the registration of FIRs against those involved,” he said.
Senator Babar added that even foreign nationals have recently disappeared, referring to the Turkish family which recently went missing.
Members of the committee said the commission was appointed by the government and was not a judicial commission. As such, performance evaluation was the government’s responsibility and monitoring it was parliament’s responsibility.
Members noted that the commission had powers to enter any building or place and asked if this power was used and if offices of the accused agencies had been raided to collect evidence.
“If for some reason, the commission is not able to perform these two functions, let us look into the reasons and empower it to be able to do so,” the PPP senator said.
He also urged that the report of the first Missing Persons Commission be made public and proposed that investigations be carried out in the case of over 2,000 Pakistani citizens recorded as ‘traced’ by the commission and submit its findings to the committee in three months.
The commission’s president, Justice Javed Iqbal briefed the committee and said enforced disappearances are a tragedy and are unacceptable.
“However, the number of missing persons reported in the media is extensively exaggerated and subject to correction. The number of missing persons till August 2017 was 4,385 of which 2,899 cases have been disposed of,” Mr Iqbal said. Justice Iqbal is also the newly appointed chairman of the National Accountability Bureau.
He said that of the remaining 1,386 cases, 793 were missing persons from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 247 from Punjab. He said he did not have enough evidence to hold agencies responsible for enforced disappearances as alleged.
“This has been done mostly to tarnish the image of the agencies and to destabilise Pakistan,” he said.
Mr Iqbal said the biggest problem is that there is no specific law on the matter and no proper definition of enforced disappearances.
“There are various reasons for people going missing such as tribal feuds, rivalry between war lords and terrorism,” he said. Nonetheless, members also asked that the report of the first commission set up in March 2010 through an order of the interior minister and which completed its work within a year be made public as it may throw light on the sworn statements of hundreds of people, facilitating the task ahead.
The committee asked the chairman of the commission to collect data on those in internment centres and about cases against them.

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