Some 982 missing persons have been located in the last four years while 1,273 cases of enforced disappearance are still pending with the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED).
According to a report submitted by the commission before the Supreme Court last week, 409 of those traced belong to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), 254 to Punjab, 199 to Sindh, 50 to Balochistan and 30 to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). A copy of the report is available with The Express Tribune.
The report reveals that 1,273 cases of enforced disappearance are still pending. These include 632 cases from K-P, 198 from Punjab, 186 from Sindh, 122 from Balochistan, 43 from Fata and 11 from Azad Jammu Kashmir, 30 from Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
According to the data, the number of missing persons is increasing as 1,265 cases were pending as of December 31, 2014 but instead of decreasing this number has increased to 1,273 with the addition of eight more cases.
The report says 2,275 cases of missing persons were instituted when the commission started its work in March, 2011. However, it disposed of 1,140 cases in the last four years.
However, Defence of Human Rights (DHR) – an NGO involved in tracing the missing persons – has contradicted the CIED figures in a statement. The commission, headed by former SC judge Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal, is working in the country for the last four years.
According to the DHR, the number of missing persons was 5,149 as of December 31, 2014 and not 1,265. It said 252 cases of missing persons surfaced in 2014 alone.
Commenting on the contradiction, the DHR Chairperson Amina Masood Janjua said the DHR collected data from all sources including superior courts. “Therefore, our number is higher than the commission,” she said.
She, however, said the commission is the ‘last resort’ for the heirs of missing persons as the Supreme Court has not taken up the issue for last seven months. “Last time, a larger bench was constituted to hear all cases related to enforced disappearances but the top court has not resumed its proceedings so far,” she said.
“The commission disposed of the cases of missing persons, who were traced in internment centres,” she added.
Amina said Pakistan’s former attorney general Munir A Malik had given top priority to the issue of missing persons during his tenure and formed a ‘missing persons cell’ in the AGP – headed by former AG Tariq Khokhar.
“However, the missing persons’ cell in the AGP office has been closed down by incumbent AG Salman Aslam Butt,” she lamented, adding that a task force, formed by the former AG to sort out the issue, was closed down after his resignation.
Amina also criticised the federal government over its apparent disinterest in the recovery of missing persons in the outgoing year.
Earlier, on February 10, the issue of missing persons had again surfaced before the top court during the hearing of an application by the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) regarding the issue of unidentified corpses.
The top court had asked the federal and provincial governments to do coordinated efforts for recovery of missing persons as well as resolution of the issue of discovery of unidentified bodies and the AGP Salma Aslam Butt had ensured the bench he would talk with the relevant authorities for coordinated efforts.
“We are creating difficulties for ourselves by not addressing such an important issue,” Justice Khawaja had observed, adding that federal government should take the lead in the missing persons’ case.
During the hearing, the bench was told that 4,557 bodies were recovered from all over the country during the last five years, 266 of which have remained unidentified.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2015.