Govt figures on missing persons inflated: panel

Published: December 20, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The chairman of a commission on enforced disappearances has told a Senate panel that the Balochistan government has misleading and inflated figures on missing persons.

“Initially, it was reported that 18,000 people had been missing in Balochistan. The figures were later brought down to 17,000 but when details of these persons were sought, nobody turned up,” Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal told the Senate Standing Committee on Interior and Narcotics Control.

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“A total of 96 cases of missing persons from Balochistan are before the commission,” he said, adding that most of those claimed to be missing were in Afghanistan and Geneva.

Out of 3,692 cases reported before the commission, 2,416 have been decided while 1,276 are pending, he said.

“A United Nations working group had provided a list of 368 missing people from Karachi. However, in a subsequent inquiry it transpired that 309 people were in jails for involvement in different cases and they all belonged to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.”

Javed Iqbal, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, quashed the impression that the intelligence agencies did not cooperate in the cases of missing persons. Instead he found the federal and provincial governments ‘reluctant to share details’.

Citing an example, he said that when the commission held an inquiry about missing persons in Punjab, it was not provided any office space and it had to work in a rented room. Similarly, the commission tried to meet Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah but a meeting could not materialise.

Of the cases taken up by the commission, 654 were from Fata, 223 from Punjab, 200 from Sindh, 96 from Balochistan while the rest were from Khyber-Pakhtunkwa, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The Senate panel’s chairman, Rehman Malik, applauded the services of Justice (retd) Iqbal as chairman of the commission for working in a ‘tight situation’ without adequate funds.

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Malik said as former interior minister he knew that the uniforms of law enforcement agencies were being used by RAW operatives, who abduct and kidnap people in Balochistan in order to bring a bad name to the forces and destabilise Pakistan.

“It is no more a secret that RAW is actively working in Balochistan to incite sectarian and ethnic violence to replicate an East Pakistan-like situation,” he added.

Malik said figures of missing persons have always been exaggerated. “No such impression should go from this forum that discourages our forces fighting terrorism and anti-Pakistan elements,” he added.

He directed the interior ministry to sanction adequate budget to the commission and give appropriate space for their offices in Lahore and Karachi as soon as possible.  He said it is time to regularise the commission on a permanent basis in view of Justice (retd) Kamal Mansoor’s recommendations.

Malik also constituted a committee under Justice (retd) Iqbal to propose a draft bill to regularise the commission in order to make it more powerful. The committee was given six weeks to formulate the proposal.

Senator Israrullah Zehri said that after the retirement of General Raheel Sharif, private armies have become active in Balochistan. The government should take serious notice of it. The committee members staged a token walkout to protest against the absence of Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan from the meeting.

Abbottabad Commission report

Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, who had also headed the Abbottabad Commission formed after the US raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011, demanded that the report of that commission should be made public.

“Had the authorities implemented the recommendations given in the Abbottabad Commission report, there would not have been any need to form any other commissions,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2016.

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