ISLAMABAD: Going one step ahead on the incidents of missing persons in Balochistan, a Senate committee on Thursday agreed to call officials of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Frontier Corps (FC) to explain the growing number of cases.
A meeting of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Senator Nasreen Jalil, also agreed to listen to the stories of the recovered persons and then confront the agencies for their disappearance.
“I think enough of listening to the figures and statements of Balochistan government representatives and let us call a spade a spade and summon the actual people about these disappearances,” Senator Farhatullah Babar told the committee.
Babar said the matter was not relevant to Balochistan government because it was beyond the provincial dispensation. “Everybody knew in their hearts, who was responsible but nobody would say it,” he added.
Earlier, the committee was updated on missing persons cases by Balochistan Additional Secretary Hameedul Nasir. “Out of 387 missing persons, 136 are still missing. About 131 are traced, 104 have returned to their homes and 27 dead bodies had been identified,” Nasir stated.
He said that those 104 who have returned had refused to speak about their disappearance when approached by police as a follow-up on first information reports (FIRs). “We are not sure who abducted them but a few released persons named some agencies and we intimated our concern to the relevant headquarters,” he said.
Babar replied that the matter was beyond the Balochistan government. He added that the Commission on Enforced Disappearances had also failed. “It could not even do what it could as per the mandate given to it by the Parliament.”
The committee recommended the abolition of the commission and replacing it with a new one with expert investigators as its members. Unlike the current commission, the committee said, the new panel should be required to make its report public.
“The commission takes credit for having recovered over 2,000 missing persons during the last six years but it has nothing to show by way of pursuing investigations or filing FIR[s] against individuals or institutions found involved in enforced disappearances,” Babar said.
He proposed to the committee to invite the recovered missing persons and speak with them so that the discussion on the missing persons was taken forward. The proposal was later made part of the committee’s recommendations.
Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini told the committee that the issue must be taken seriously and officials of the ISI, MI and FC should be called to the committee meeting to explain reasons for these “disappearances with impunity”.
Babar quipped that the matter of the internment centres in different parts of the country and those kept for long should also be looked into.
He referred to the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation, which was promulgated in 2011 but had been given back-dated effect from 2008 to enable the law-enforcement agencies to bring into the open those caught during fight against militancy in Swat and Malakand to stand trial.
But at the same time, the law gave protection to the agencies from prosecution, he said. “This was an extraordinary concession to the agencies,” he added. He said these centres had become Pakistani Guantanamo Bay and virtual black holes from which no information was forthcoming.
He said that all state institutions, Supreme Court, Parliament, the National Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances, appeared helpless in addressing the issue. “It clearly means that the invisible perpetrators of the crime are far more powerful than all these state institutions put together,” he stated.
The committee also agreed to call the recovered persons and listen to their tales and then confront the agencies for the disappearances that continue unabated in the province.