A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
The relatives of disappeared and missing persons in Pakistan will observe the Day of Missing People on March 23, 2008, a national day in commemoration of a Pakistani resolution adopted in 1940 in the united India. On this day the relatives persons will hold protests with the photographs of the missing persons, hold seminars and discussion throughout the country and also show documentary films about “missing of people after arrests” by the state intelligence agencies. This day will be observed under the banner of Defense of Human Rights’ an organization working on the issue of missing persons that has challenged some 485 cases in the higher courts, particularly in Supreme Court of Pakistan in support of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s (HRCP) petitions. The HRCP also issued a report on missing persons.
The phenomenon of people missing after their arrests has escalated since the ‘war on terror’ since 2001. Taking advantage of support from international powers the military government of Pakistan has impunity in keeping activists in incommunicado for several months in the army torture camps. There are reports that since the war on terror was initiated up to now more than 5000 people have gone missing. The nationalists and political groups claim that 4000 are persons including women are missing from one province of Balochistan alone where the military government has been conducting operations since 2001 in an effort to take control of the provinces resources by bombarding the civilian population. Also, 1000 persons are reported missing from the Sindh and from North Western Frontier Province (NWFP). The missing persons from NWFP are from religious political groups who were arrested on the charges of associating with the Taliban and Usama Bin Laden.
The disappearances after arrests numbering in the thousands also pushed the judiciary of Pakistan to play its constitutional role for the protection of the freedom of ordinary citizens, their liberty, the right to be produced before courts and the right to life. One of the major reasons for the removal of Mr. Iftekhar Choudhry as chief justice on March 9, 2007, was when Mr. Choudhry started asking state intelligence agencies and their heads to produce the missing people. Their families were told by various sources that their missing family members were in the captivity of intelligence agencies, particularly in intelligence agencies of arm forces. The assertion of the higher judiciary annoyed the military ruler and he disbanded the whole judiciary later on November 3, 2007. Some of the missing people turned up but still there are thousands of people missing and their whereabouts are unknown. The higher judiciary’s insistence for the production of missing persons also irked the western countries, particularly the USA and Great Britain, who were also involved in pushing the Musharraf government to hand over the suspected “terrorists” without any legal process. Even the arrested persons from Pakistan or other countries were kept in US military camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan without mentioning their arrests for several months and many of them were transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The government of Pakistan and Afghanistan were paid in cash for their cooperation in nabbing the “terrorists”. Still there are 92 Pakistani prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and their presence was only made known to the relatives after one year and in some cases after more than two to three years. The persons who have surfaced after being held incommunicado by state intelligence agencies testified before courts and the media that they were kept most of the time blind folded, mostly in army torture camps, severely tortured and that they saw several people including females in the same conditions as their own.
The government of President Musharraf should immediately provide a list of all those people who were arrested and who have been missing. The armed forces must ensure that all persons in their prisons are either tried in courts of law or are released forthwith. Henceforth, no one must be kept incommunicado.
# # # About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.