ISLAMABAD: There is a need for new legislation to enable authorities to hold someone responsible for enforced disappearances. At the same time, the extent of the issue is being confused by activists such as Mama Qadeer, who could not back up his claims regarding the number of missing persons.
These were among the comments made by Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances head Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal on Wednesday.
He was sharing details of the committee’s performance before the Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM) Nasreen Jalil chaired the meeting.
“Despite challenges, we have disposed of 2,899 cases out of a total of 4,329 cases received by the commission… We are currently processing 1,386 cases,” he said.
A host of problems, he said, could be resolved if the parliament modified relevant sections the Criminal Procedures Code.
Parliament, he said, should play a proactive role by empowering the committee.
Nobody, he pointed out, had asked former president Pervez Musharraf when he extradited more than 2,000 Pakistanis to foreign countries despite the fact that the country had terrorism laws and regulations.
“This is not a banana republic … Nobody has bothered to … hold him accountable for what he did,” he said.
He also lamented that he was being blamed for not making the Abbottabad Commission Report public.
“Only the government and the parliament can decide to make it public,” he said.
He said that he would urge the government to make all reports public, including those of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission and the Abbottabad Commission, adding that the report on missing persons compiled by Justice Kamal Mansoor should also be made public.
Dismissing Justice (retd) Iqbal’s claims, Senator Farhatullah Babar suggested holding an evaluation audit of the commission, insisting that despite all drawbacks, there was a lot the body could have done.
According to him, the Senate had already prepared a draft law in this regard, which it had submitted to the government.
“I understand your problems, but the Parliament and even the Supreme Court, which ordered action on missing persons, are all helpless,” he said.
Babar said no one even agreed on the exact number of missing persons. Data, he said, presented by Baloch activist Mama Qadeer, CIED and international organisations were controversial.
He also reminded incidents where kidnapped persons returned home, but the commission did not record their statements to determine who was actually responsible for their disappearance.
Criticising its performance, the senator said that since its inception in 2010, the commission had not published a single interim report.
Babar stated that the main issue was not tracing the missing persons, but fixing the responsibility, prosecution and paying compensation to the victims.
He recommended that enforced disappearance should be criminalised.
“The commission is appointed by the government and not a judicial commission. As such, evaluating its performance is the government’s responsibility and oversight is a function of Parliament,” he said.
He proposed that the commission should investigate and submit its findings of the cases of more than 2,000 Pakistani citizens who had been ‘traced’ within three months.
The Senate panel also asked the commission to collect data on people in internment centres and cases pending against them.