Human rights ministry jumps to action on missing persons -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Human rights ministry jumps to action on missing persons

Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: As the families of the missing persons continue their protests, the Ministry of Human Rights has also come into action.

In addition to acquiring the power for National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) to investigate the abuses by the armed forces and intelligence agencies, it has urged the army chief, DGs of ISI and MI as well as heads of paramilitary forces to stop this ëimmoral and illegalí practice of enforced disappearances.

They have been directed to take action against those individuals found involved in such heinous crimes.Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Prime Ministerís advisor on Human Rights, has dispatched two letters to Defence and Interior Ministries on the issue of enforced disappearances. Other than the federal secretaries of the ministries, Army Chief, heads of ISI and MI, DG Rangers in Punjab and Sindh as well as IGs of FC in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are among those addressed in the letters. “Of late, it has become extremely difficult for the Ministry of Human Rights to defend the country on this count in the international arena,” reads Khokharís letter in possession of The News.

As Pakistan is scheduled to submit its report to the UN Human Rights Council in July, the letter goes on: ìOne of the extremely difficult questions to answer would be the question of missing persons,î a practice in violation of the article 4 of the Constitution guaranteeing protection of all citizens.

The letter has also quoted the report by UKís Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on the human rights situation in Pakistan that highlighted the cases of extra-judicial killing, torture and enforced disappearances by the state agencies.

However, it is not the first letter by Khokhar. He has been conveying his reservations since he assumed the office of advisor. Khokhar also wrote to DG ISI on the illegal detentions and pathetic conditions of 11 prisoners abducted from Adyala jail, four of them died in the agencyís custody.

An official involved in preparation of the ministryís report for submission to the UN body said it has been decided to acknowledge the abuses of human rights by the state agencies, a radical break from the past practice.

In yet another major development, the National Assembly Friday passed amendments in the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) 2011 that authorized it calling into question the armed forces and intelligence agencies on the allegations of enforced disappearances.

Through this amendment, the NCHR can take suo moto action other than reacting to a petition directing the government to deposit within three months a report on the alleged human rights abuses by the armed services/intelligence agencies personnel. Not only the governmentís response would be shared with the aggrieved family, the report together with NCHR recommendation in this respect will also be publicized, an exercise intended to discourage this trend started after 9/11.

The security establishment has earned notoriety through arbitrary detentions of hundreds of people, many still missing, resulting in unending ordeals of their families. Camps of the families of missing persons are regular phenomenon in Islamabad, Quetta and Karachi.

Presently a camp of the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons, organization highlighting the issue of enforced disappearances in trouble-hit province, continues outside Islamabad Press Club. It is led by Abdul Qadeer Rekhi Baloch whose son, Jalil Rekhi, was abducted in 2009 and his bullet-riddled dead-body was delivered to family in November 2011.

Amina Masood Janjua, Chairperson of Defence Council of Human Rights, recently closed her camp after 80-day. She set up the camp with a list of 280 cases of enforced disappearances and the number swell to 561 at the time of closure of the camp. Instead of resigning to fate, she is determined to continue this struggle, this time in a different way.

Amina-led organization would hold rallies and set up camps at all the provincial capitals to apprise the people of the sufferings of those have lost their nears and dears. Aminaís husband, Masood Janjua, was picked up in July 2005, still untraceable. Although the agencies have been denying his custody, Amina claimed having learned through informal but informed channels in the army that her husband has been kept in the premises of famous Triple One Brigade. The Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court has already been actively pursuing the cases, putting the government on defensive.


Cable operators reject allegation

ISLAMABAD: The All Pakistan Cable Operators Association (APCOA) Friday claimed an organised conspiracy was being hatched through newspapers, alleging them of spreading vulgarity.

“A few days ago, a column was published in a newspaper which alleged that cable operators are airing vulgar content, but this is a conspiracy,” APCOA chairman Kamran Arain said, while talking to the media.

“Pemra should see that the owners of that newspaper are also running a channel which is airing all sorts of vulgar content. Pemra sends us notices, initiates operations against us, but cannot see TV channels,” Arain questioned.

He added on the publication of one column in a newspaper, Pemra raided offices of cable operators and confiscated their equipment, but ‘we are providing inexpensive and standard entertainment. There would not have been any Pakistani channels if it were not for us’.

“Cable operators do not air anything unethical and if somebody is doing it, people should complain about it,” Arain said, adding the association was willing to take action against all cable operators who might be violating laws.

“We request Pemra not to join hands with TV channels and investigate only on merit. They should also inquire against TV channels. The channels keep airing anything they want calling it ‘freedom of press’, but the cable operators are always targeted because we are not high-ups.”

The chairman added the cable operators had decided to boycott all unethical and irreligious content, and were hoping to be supported by the people, judiciary and religious parties in this regard.

The News