Rights activists stage protest in Pakistan over forced disappearances

Islamabad, Nov 20 (EFE).- Rights groups and dozens of people staged a protest in front of the Pakistani parliament on Monday, condemning the enforced disappearances of civilians allegedly detained unlawfully by security agencies without a trace over the years.

Families of the missing persons, mainly from the restive Balochistan province, have been frequently protesting against the forced disappearances. They urge the government to conduct investigations and disclose the whereabouts of their loved ones.

Holding placards displaying images of their loved ones, several relatives gathered at the protest site in D-Chowk outside the parliament in Islamabad.

“We appeal to the prime minister that Zahid Amin, who was picked up from his house illegally on July 11, 2014, be released immediately,” read one of the placards displayed by three veiled women of Amin’s family.

Rights activist Amina Masood Janjua said the state must locate the missing persons and get them reunited with their loved ones now.

“It’s been long years since they were separated from their family members,” Janjua told EFE.

The relatives alleged that Pakistani security forces had forced their loved ones into disappearance.

“At least we should be told if these missing persons are alive or dead,” said Janjua.

Last year, the Islamabad High Court said the state was responsible for enforced disappearances.

Then Chief Justice Athar Minallah wrote in the verdict of a case of a “missing person” that “when there is sufficient evidence to conclude that it is, prima facie, a case of ‘enforced disappearance’ then it becomes an obligation of the state and all its organs to trace the disappeared citizen.”

The judge also observed that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances established by the government in March 2011 had failed to provide justice to victims.

Despite a mandate to investigate alleged disappearances and hold government officials accountable, the court said the commission traced only one-third of the cases registered with it and made no attempt to hold officials accountable for failing to comply with “orders to produce people unlawfully detained.”

Since March 2011, the commission has received 8,463 complaints of enforced disappearances. However, activists estimate the actual number could be higher.

According to a 2022 Amnesty International report, Pakistan has not acceded to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which means that enforced disappearances are not criminalized in the country. EFE


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