Thousands of Pakistanis missing: Is anyone listening?

Who is holding thousands of missing persons, and who is responsible for their return? Does civil society still care?

Absar Khan November 05, 2010
As I write this blog, I sit in my living room miles away from Pakistan. I miss my loved ones; my parents, my siblings and acquaintances a lot.

But thank God, despite being away from them, I am in constant touch with them and they know about my life and the freedom I have.

But as I write all this, I think of those unfortunate people whose loved ones are lost – or rather haver been snatched away. I thank God and feel blessed.

Since the time I wrote my last piece on missing persons, which was nearly three months ago,  I have seen that no progress has been made on the issue. The government has been incompetent in following the orders of the Supreme Court, whereas the SC has been indecisive in making the government follow its orders. The country, therefore, hangs in a strange system of democracy and justice. Between this two-sliced fudged sandwich of democracy and justice are the ingredients of missing persons. Who is cooking this savory-for-some and bitter-for-many sandwich?

Someone with the authority to rebuff the orders of the court and certainly has the authority to violate the constitution of Pakistan. Eleven people were allegedly picked up by intelligence agencies from the Adiala jail, despite their acquittal by a court in a terrorism case. Dawn reported that the federal government contacted all departments including secret agencies, but they declined their possession. This leads to a simple query: who is holding them? Who is lying?

A number of times, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has submitted its report on the issue of missing persons to the Supreme Court, but it has yielded no results. In the words of Amina Masood Janjua at a rally held in the support of missing persons on November 2,

“Certainly, I stand at the same place where I stood five years ago in search of my husband. It seems to me that we are still living in a dictatorial era. Democracy and independent courts are delivering us the same thing: injustice.”

In my opinion, the judiciary and the so-called democratic government can be compared to George Orwell’s Ministry of Love. It seems that love for the nationally-powerful Big Brother is holding those two departments from easing the pain of thousands.

Besides, in my considered opinion, I daresay that the amount of support by civil society for the cause of missing persons has increased substantially – though not adequately. From the south to the north of the country, Amina Masood Janjua has commanded good support from civil society. In spite of this fact, 11 abducted prisoners were relocated to secret locations in broad day light. If civil society were to stand against such injustice more passionately, we could address it more effectively.

In October 2009, the government amended the country’s anti-terrorism laws through a presidential ordinance to further curtail the legal rights of terrorism suspects. Under the ordinance, suspects can be placed in ‘preventive detention’ for a period of 90 days, without the benefit of judicial review or the right to bail. What does the government have to say about people held for 91 days-or seven years, for that matter?

Gone were the days when the same reinstated judges alarmed the establishment and a military dictator and thence earned a pretty penny. More hope, more sweating and more patience is demanded of the families of missing persons and in Pakistanis at large. How much time is too much time? Chief Justice of Pakistan, I ask you again: are you listening?

Absar Khan A student of mechanical engineering and avid follower of current affairs. Absar blogs on international relations and life in Pakistan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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