KARACHI: Every time a UN delegation visits Pakistan on the request of our government, we look increasingly like The Congo, Rwanda or a state where the UN has to intervene. Whether it was the probe by the UN commission on the murder of Benazir Bhutto or the current visit by UN delegation in the case of missing persons, we seem to be voluntarily handing over to the UN and the world the sovereign right to handle our problems by ourselves.
Almost all leading government officials refused to meet the delegation, which indicates two things. One, the invitation extended to the delegation did not have the broad consensus of all stakeholders. Two, the world was given the message that at the government level, the will, intent and purpose to resolve the issue of the missing persons is getting only a cursory treatment and the hue and cry raised by the victims’ family members who have been accusing the government and its institutions of being involved in enforced disappearances, may be right. We should not have invited the delegation. But if the invitation was extended, we should have ensured that all government officials that the delegation requested to meet gave it an audience.
It appears that all that the delegation has done is collect data and empirical evidence to promote a neutral worldview on the issue. There is a wide gulf that separates the viewpoints of the government and the families of the missing persons. There are two sets of lists of missing persons that the delegation is carrying back with them — one handed over to them by government officials in Balochistan insisting that less than 100 persons are missing, and the other given by the families of the missing persons indicating that the number is in thousands.
The issue is not how these persons go missing. The real issue is why do they go missing. If we can find the answer to the ‘why’, we may be able to do something about the ‘how’ and the ‘by whom’. In its press conference, the UN delegation failed to highlight why people were going missing. Next time, it is hoped that the government will give this mandate when it invites a UN delegation on the issue.
Lt Col (R) Muhammad Ali Ehsan
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.
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