The missing and forsaken
I hear the words missing persons and think of Amina Janjua. She has fought to recover her husband alone while authorities and political groups have failed to support the cause.
Whenever I hear the words missing persons I think of Amina Janjua and feel sad. She is the wife of Masood Ahmed Janjua, one of many missing person and chairperson of Defence of Human Rights Pakistan (DHRPK) which has been interminably and doggedly struggling for the cause of missing persons in Pakistan. Sometimes her hard struggle has been alone and sometimes she has had the support of the masses. The missing persons have allegedly been nabbed by Pakistani intelligence agencies in collaboration with the United States of America which is interestingly our top ally in the war against terrorism.
The issue of missing persons is almost as old as the dictatorship tenure of former President Pervez Musharraf who has been accused of major involvement in the cases. The reason General Musharraf is associated with the missing persons case is because of the fact that he was president cum uncrowned king of Pakistan at the time when the thousands of people began to diappear.
Even after the judiciary was restored and the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had been reinstated, the missing persons wasn’t heard in Supreme Court for a long time. The SC didn’t take serious notice of the cases until November 5 2009, nearly 8 months after the restoration of judiciary, in response to a protest outside the Supreme Court, led by Amina Janjua against inaction on the issue. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry ordered the interior secretary to submit a report Masood Ahmed Janjua. Hence, the longstanding case of missing persons was reopened again, giving af resh ray of hope to Amina Janjua and all the relatives of the so-far-untraced missing persons.
The Interior Ministry claims that it working hard to trace the missing persons. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said that 29 out of 275 missing persons have been traced so far and that efforts for the recovery of the rest are underway. In another report, Rehman Malik has apprised the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights that the total number of missing persons is 1,601.In any case, the figure of 1,601 missing persons suggests that the numbers of miserably affected people, inclusive of the relatives of missing persons, are in thousands. This is a lamentable situation which raises an important question: why are so-called suspects of terrorism locked away in an undisclosed location, without a trial? Evidently, this is a flagrant violation of the Constitution of Pakistan.
One of the missing persons who has been recovered has revealed that he had been illegally detained by law-enforcement personnel. More sensational was the story of a man found in a Rawalpindi lockup. He had been held without charge for two years. In another event, the Lahore High Court in May of 2010 directed the Ministry of Defence to recover two men allegedly abducted by intelligence agencies from different parts of the country.
A judicial commission was recently created on the directives of Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani. The goal to probe the issue, the commission has said. Despite this delicacy,noticeable progress is yet to be seen.
Interestingly, Interior Minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik continues to reiterate that the democratic government of Pakistan keeps strong checks and balances on the activities of the intelligence agencies and that these agencies report to the premier directly. But – and this is a strong but – what we see apparently is antithetical. Had secret institutions been in control of the democratic government, why are hundreds of missing persons still kept in detention?
It’s sad that none of the prominent political party of Pakistan have backed up the cause of Janjua and thousands like her. Amina Masood Janjua’s Facebook status message on July 12 said:
“I am overcome by enthusiasm whenever there is a protest for the missing persons....I am obsessed to work harder and harder till I get them all released!”
I have an urge to say that we must shore up the cause of missing persons as well, no matter which political party one belongs to, after all this cause is a humanitarian cause. I suggest a free and fair trial of missing persons in Pakistani courts. Keeping them in detention for no known reason is unjust.