The practice of Enforced Disappearance is becoming a menace, impinging upon the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Pakistan. It is chilling to think about the victim’s situation. The enemy here is invisible – and the perpetrators of this hateful practice enjoy almost complete impunity.
According to our organization’s fact sheet, as of July the 2nd, 2021, around 1383 are missing persons all across Pakistan, reflecting the grim situation in our society. A dive further into the details inform us of the precise data available at our disposal. Around 114 and 344 people are missing from Sindh and Punjab, respectively, while KPK and Balochistan have 788 and 64 people missing. However, the actual number of people missing is higher than the cases registered and reported from these regions in DHR’s own system. Despite several judicial proceedings and widespread protests, this menace still lingers on in our society.
Accordingly, “dissidents” in Balochistan, Sindh, and KPK have seen the worst kind of suppression by the state institutions, often accompanied by the threat of “disappearances”. It started during the War on Terrorism where the security establishment detained potential terrorist elements and their beneficiaries. However, now the practice of illegal abduction extends to ethnic-nationalist subjects voicing their concern for “radical” demands which becomes a source of general dissatisfaction to the State and its institutions. The security establishment’s inclination to abduct the citizens stems from the unstable history of Pakistan itself. Having experienced the embarrassing breakup of Pakistan in 1971, the security establishment intends not to leave any room for such a future scenario. As a result, the painful legacy of Bangladesh compels security establishments to extinguish every differing voice appearing in any corner of Pakistan.
A Horrific Abuse of Basic Judicial Rights
Ironically, this practice’s inspection reveals that it does more harm than good (even for the state institutions) in our society. It alienates the citizens further by defying their fundamental and human rights guaranteed to them under the protected constitution of our country. Unjustifiable and enforced detention without a judicial trial spoils the due process of the law. It distorts the meaning of justice in our society, undermining the legitimacy of the State’s institutions. By disrupting lines of communication between the State and the Citizen, the perpetrators’ actions lead to the public erosion of trust in the State and its institutions. Moreover, the imaginary social contract between the State and its citizens is also endangered increasing the risk of turning these mere critics of the state institutions into full-fledged extremists.
Pakistan’s inability to eradicate this plague means open defiance of several international conventions and UN resolutions it has ratified throughout its diplomatic history. The Convention Against Torture, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, calls for the prevention from and the criminalizing of all kinds of torture happening within the country. More than ten years into the convention’s ratification, Pakistan has yet to declare ‘torture’ a criminal offense under its penal code. This is exactly why the committee for the convention had expressed serious concern in the past regarding the torture and military trials of citizens for charges related to terrorism. In 2018, the Peshawar High Court had given a landmark judgment setting aside the extra-judicial trials and illegal arrests of all the citizens abducted and subjected to torture to be suspended later by the Supreme Court on questionable grounds.
Conclusively, the practice of illegal abduction even goes against the very beliefs of the judiciary’s structural functioning, which requires all detainees to appear before the court of law. This basic right is also enshrined in the ‘International Convention on Civil and Political Rights,’ which Pakistan also signed and ratified and reflects the administration’s indifference towards its international obligations.
Summing up, the illegal abduction and Enforced Disappearance of the Pakistani citizens by the State itself reflect the terrible State of relations between the State and its people. In the name of national security, the practice sows the seeds of disunity and alienation that can have deleterious effects on the long-term stability of Pakistan. This reprehensible practice also brings disgrace to the international reputation of Pakistan that can even spoil Pakistan’s stance on the preservation of human rights in Kashmir and Palestine. It’s high time that the government, judiciary, and the security establishment should realize that the citizens of Pakistan are assets to be engaged with, not enemies to be suppressed.
Waqar Akbar, Defence of Human Rights Pakistan