by Marvi Sirmed
Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances has not done much about the plight of missing persons, said Ms. Amna Masood Janjua, who has been campaigning against enforced disappearances. Talking to Daily Times she criticised the briefing by Justice (r) Javed Iqbal that he offered to National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday.
Ms. Janjua said that she had complete record of Justice Iqbal’s public statements that he gave from time to time ever since he became the President of the Inquiry Commission. “In all his statements, he has always discouraged raising any voice for the missing persons; in fact, he always seemed to be giving an impression that enforced disappearances were panacea against the prevailing terrorism” she added.
She challenged the President of the Inquiry Commission to present the families of the missing persons who have gone to Afghanistan or those who have been abducted by the foreign agencies just to malign Pakistan’s security establishment as he has claimed. “And then I will present the families who think otherwise”, she said.
She added that the Justice had asserted before the National Assembly Committee that former dictator Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf had handed over 4000 Pakistanis to the USA. “May I ask Mr. Justice Iqbal if he has inquired who picked up those 4000 people and how they were transported to the US? Who flew them from Pakistan and from which airport?” she added.
It may be noted that the Commission of Inquiry has not published a single report ever since Justice Iqbal assumed the charge of its President in 2011. Every month, however, a single page press release is issued containing the number of complaints received, disposed and under consideration.
Prior to the formation of the current Commission, another body was created in March 2010 to sort out the cases of missing persons. This Commission comprised Justice (R) Kamal Mansoor Alam (Chairman), Justice (R) Fazlur Rehman and Justice (R) Nasira Iqbal. It had submitted a detailed report containing 137 recommendations on 40 pages. The pages containing the recommendations were later rendered classified by the government in 2011.
Daily Times has got the copy of the report, which recommended inter alia appropriate legislation to provide specific powers to arrest and detain anyone following the due process of law; making it obligatory for security agencies to share information with police; making the arrest and detention process exclusive mandate of the police under Anti-Terrorism Act. The Commission had also recommended: “In order to continue the pace of recovery/tracing of missing persons and to implement the recommendations of this Commission, a person not less than the rank of a sitting/retired high court judge may be appointed as Commissioner for Missing Persons.”
It is surprising for the human rights defenders to note that the current Commission has followed up on none of the above-mentioned recommendations. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has time and again raised this issue in its statements and annual reports. Ms. Janjua told DT that she was asked by the Supreme Court to submit a separate petition on the progress of the Inquiry Commission and for the appointment of new President of the Commission on grounds of the inability of the current one to move ahead on the grave issue of enforced disappearances. “I had submitted the petition two years ago but so far it stands pending with no hearing in the offing yet” she told.
The parliament has not played its due role on this issue except proposing a law to bring the intelligence agencies under the parliamentary oversight and under the ambit of special legislation. The proposed legislation was stalled by the government and then shelved. Recently, Young Lawyers Association has submitted a petition to the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on this issue. “We don’t have any hope from the current leadership in Senate given how it was elected and with whose support”, an Islamabad based lawyer told Daily Times on the condition of anonymity.
Pakistan has not yet signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, despite expressing commitments at the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGED). WGED has expressed its concern in this regard several times. In 2013, the Working Group also communicated its concerns over the reports it received that some of the persons with whom the WGED delegation had met at that time, had been threatened or intimidated. The government of Pakistan has been unable to take any measures to address the concerns of the UN Working Group or of the human rights defenders within Pakistan. Daily Times