Our collective shame -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Our collective shame

In fact, if one were to go by recent information gathered and released to the press by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, it seems that the number of those who have gone missing is much higher than otherwise believed. And lest the government or some other agency deny the HRCP’s information, it needs to be noted that the human rights body has given very specific details of the said disappearances along with, in many cases, testimony of family members. It seems that other than terrorism suspects, political workers and activists have also been detained incommunicado and many may have links to the unrest in Balochistan. If one examines the evolution of this issue and how it has of late managed to grab media headlines, one will find that until this recent pressure to locate these missing people came to the fore, the government had consistently denied any knowledge over the issue. In fact, only recently a very senior member of the government, when asked about the matter, was quoted as saying that in many cases those who had gone missing had done so willingly to stay out of harm’s way.Accounts of people who have been traced and released also confirm this perception, with many saying that they were in the custody of various intelligence agencies. In addition to this, family members of those who go missing say that they have sometimes received anonymous calls from unidentified persons who ask them not to publicise the issue and that if they do that then their loved one will eventually be released. During Tuesday’s hearing, the deputy attorney-general was unable to respond to affidavits filed by individuals who had been released and who claimed to have seen a number of the missing people in the “custody of intelligence agencies”. Hence, the scepticism among many people about the frequent claim made by government representatives before the courts that the missing cannot be traced. Even if those detained have been incarcerated for reasons of national security or because they may have links to terrorist acts, that does not take away their right to be present before a court of law where they are told of the charges that they have been arrested for and where they are given a chance to defend themselves. That is the way democracies and free societies operate. What we have now, unfortunately, is something that one finds in a police state like North Korea or Myanmar.

Source: The News

Date:1/24/2007