Women among the ‘missing’
IT is indeed a reflection on the irony of the situation in Pakistan that it needed a criminal act – as kidnapping is – by non-state actors to draw public attention to the agony caused by a crime allegedly committed by the state. But that is how it is. The Baloch militants who abducted the chief of the UN refugee office in Quetta, are now demanding the release of the Baloch “disappeared” in return for Mr John Solecki’s freedom. Under these circumstances, the HRCP’s call for negotiations for the UN official’s release to be continued and for the government to set up a high-powered independent body to address the issue of the disappeared makes sense. The case of the missing people is a serious one as it is in blatant violation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Such people are believed to have been picked up by state agencies that have not observed the due process of law, requiring the authorities to inform the concerned families and also obtain the sanction of courts for the detention of a person.
Failure to observe the law has provided grounds for affected families to make claims that the government has at times denied or ignored the allegations. In this case, the Baloch Liberation United Front has issued two lists of a total of 1,005 disappeared people. This includes 238 women. In some cases specific information of women in custody has been given. This adds a new and more shameful dimension to the issue of the missing. If the allegations are correct, it means that women are being held to exert pressure on the Baloch. And can one rule out the sexual abuse of women taken into arbitrary custody? The government must respond immediately. The allegations need to be investigated and the lists released by the BLUF verified. This is essential if the government does not want to be linked to the abuse of women. If the findings of such investigations are to carry credibility they must be conducted by a body that is independent and plausible. Hence the HRCPÂ’s proposal carries considerable weight.