Monday, March 24, 2008

Missing in Pakistan: The relatives speak out

A seminar on human rights was held at the HRCP auditorium at 3 PM on 23rd March 2008, the 68th anniversary of the adoption of the Pakistan Resolution. Entitled “Do countries sell their own people? A discussion on civil liberties in the age of the War on Terror”, the event presented the plight of the families of the victims of state-sponsored kidnapping. The venue was over-flowing with representatives from a broad cross-section of the general public – lawyers, journalists, human rights activists, students and young professionals.
The event started with a reading of N.M. Rashid’s poem Zindagi say dartay ho, followed by a screening of the suppressed documentary “Missing in Pakistan”.
This was followed by a talk by Mrs. Amina Masood Janjua, wife of Engineer Masood Janjua, missing since May 2005 and spokesperson of the families of the missing persons. She related their struggle to win the release of their family members, describing their street demonstrations and their meetings with various prominent political personalities.
Mrs. Janjua expressed her immense gratitude to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who had secured the release of more than a hundred missing persons and lamented the fact that this process had come to a halt with his deposition.
She mentioned that they have now started gathering incriminating evidence against President Musharraf, Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, Secretary Interior, Kamal Shah, IG Punjab and IG Sindh, linking them to the kidnapping of their family members.
She thanked the audience for attending the seminar and appealed to them for their help in reuniting the more than 500 persons still missing with their families.
Zainab Khatoon, talking about her missing son, was overcome with emotion and appealed to the audience to help her secure his release. Mr. Syed Tufail Shah, an aged principal of a high school in Peshawar, made a simple appeal for the release of his son.
Counsel for the families of the missing persons, Shaukat Siddiqui as well as Chaudhry Amin, Secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association, also spoke on the occasion enriching the discussion with information on the basic rights of the citizens of Pakistan as laid down in the Constitution.
The seminar ended with a brief Q&A session with the speakers.
The event brought together people with very divergent perspectives and political affiliations all of whom nevertheless share a firm belief in constitutionalism, pluralist democracy and human rights.
The event was organised by the Students Action Committee, Young Professionals and FASTRising.

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