Interior ministry being evasive over enforced disappearances: NCHR
Expressing concern over enforced disappearances in the country, the chairman of the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) has accused the federal interior ministry of evading responsibility in some specific cases.
In certain cases, the commission contacted the interior ministry, but “they [interior ministry officials] evaded responsibility”, said retired justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan while addressing an emergency press conference at the offices of the NCHR on Tuesday afternoon.
He said the Frontier Corps in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been contacted but it asked for time to investigate the cases, saying they were “working on it”. Later, he said, came the reply, “We are not able to find them.”
Justice Chowhan said the mandate of the disappeared persons’ tribunal was very limited. He suggested the formation of an internal redressal system and said they should be allowed to contact that system. “They should tell us the reasons for detention/disappearance or otherwise.”
This, he said, would also expose “rogue elements” who, under cover of their government service, sought to wreak personal vendetta, thus disgracing the government. Justice Chowhan described enforced disappearances as a matter of great concern, emphasising that “we should try and rectify the situation at the earliest”.
He noted that Article 9 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was very clear on the matter of life and liberty. Besides, he said, fundamental rights were enshrined in the two international conventions, the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on Economic Rights.
“Our policy is the protection and promotion of human rights and safeguarding them.” The NCHR chairman said the Quaid-e-Azam’s struggle since 1919 had been for the conservation of human rights and one of the major causes for the creation of Pakistan was the preservation of the human rights of the minority communities.
In this context, he quoted the Quaid’s speech to the first legislative assembly of Pakistan, on August 11, 1947, laying down the total equality and freedom of all groups inhabiting Pakistan. He stated that the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan also ensured safeguarding of all fundamental rights.
Justice Chowhan said the country was being disgraced overseas as there were daily reports on human rights violations being dispatched to other countries and international agencies. Pakistan, he reminded the mediafolk, had not ratified the treaty on disappeared persons. At this juncture, Begum Anis Haroon, the representative of Sindh on the NCHR, interjected to say that we must demand an explanation as to why the constitution was being violated.
There were some women, some with their little children, who had been waiting since morning to acquaint media persons with their ordeals. Saheerunissa Begum, wife of Muhammad Furqan Khan, said her husband, who was an employee of the KPT, was kidnapped by personnel of a security agency in 2015. “They blindfolded him and took him away,” she said.
Her son, Muhammad Imran Khan, said that he was an eyewitness to the kidnapping. He said his father was returning home from his shift on a scooter when they took him away. To date, he said, there was no trace of his father.
Saheerunnissa said they had been running from pillar to post to determine the fate of the head of the family, and had even approached the JIT, the commission on disappeared persons and the provincial task force on disappearances, but to no avail.
Fauzia Sultana said her husband was picked up by personnel of the same agency while he was on his way to an anti-terrorism court (ATC). She is the mother of two boys, 7 and 2. Her seven-year-old son had brought an enlarged photograph of his missing father.
Shaista said her husband, Shahzad Khan, was picked up on January 15, 2015, and to date his whereabouts were a mystery. She has three daughters and is living with her in-laws. She said she had been running from pillar to post to find out about the whereabouts of her husband, but to no avail.
She said the personnel of the security agency came over to their place at 3:30am, treated the inmates of the house in the gruffest of manner and herded her husband away. He was an employee of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board.
Misbah Aadil, wife of Aadil Zafar, said her husband was an employee of the KPT. She said that since the enforced disappearance of her husband, her six-year- old son had become very violent and was always talking of avenging his father’s kidnapping.
The three common denominators among all the four women were that their husbands had been picked up as way back as 2015, had failed miserably to determine the husbands’ whereabouts and all of them broke down while narrating their horrid ordeals.
Justice Chowhan narrated cases of Tharparkar in eastern Sindh and the Kailash Valley in Chitral. In the former, he said, madrasas were coming up and none knew as to which agencies were behind their appearance. The government, he said, was absolutely supine in the matter.
Hate speeches, he said, were being openly made. Then he said, there were apprehensions about the proposed Gorano Dam, which was deemed to herald an environmental disaster. Forced conversions were going on in the area, he added. As for the Kailash Valley, he said that conversions were going on there too and the endeavour of the NCHR would be to allow the Kailsah their anthropological and historical identity. He suggested that the school education system for the area should be one which allowed them to retain their identity rather than forcibly absorbing them into the mainstream.