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The case of disappeared persons in Pakistan

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Two proceedings this week highlighted the issue of thousands of missing or disappeared persons in Pakistan.

On Wednesday the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing to discuss the human rights situation in Balochistan that included target killing and disappearance of people. Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director for Human Rights Watch, in his testimony, said that cases documented by the HRW show that Pakistan's security forces and its intelligence agencies were involved in the enforced disappearance of ethnic Baloch.

Pakistan 's Supreme Court Friday summoned Defense Secretary and Chief Secretary Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and issued directives to produce seven prisoners who went missing from the Adiala jail before the court on February 13.

It may be recalled that, eleven prisoners, acquitted by an anti-terrorist court Rawalpindi last May from charges of attacking the Pakistan Army's General Headquarters in Rawalpindi and the ISI's Hamza Camp, had gone missing from the Adiala Jail Rawalpindi and later the agencies conceded that the missing persons were in their custody. Four of the detainees were later found dead.

Media provided a graphic account of the killing of one of the victim:

Mufti Abdul Shakoor received a call on his cell phone last week from an unknown person asking him to go to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP province, which borders neighboring Afghanistan) where his brother Abdul Saboor, who was facing court martial under the army act, is admitted.

Shakoor took no time to rush to the hospital, but he could not find his brother there. After an hour, he received another call by same person, but from a different number, asking him to pick the body of his brother from an ambulance parked on a roadside in the southwestern part of the city.

The ambulance was abandoned and all that was left behind was the body of Abdul Saboor, who was detained by the law enforcing agencies in connection with a brazen terrorist attack on the army headquarters, commonly known as the GHQ in Rawalpindi in October 2009.

29-year-old Abdul Saboor, along with ten others who were accused, had been exonerated by the anti-terrorist court, but as soon as they came out of Adiala Jail Rawalpindi, they were whisked away by plain-clothed persons. Later, it was brought on record by the government counsels that the accused were in the custody of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and were being tried under the army act.

"His (Saboor) body was full of torture marks", Mufti Shakoor told reporters. However, Raja Irshad, a counsel for the ISI claimed in the Supreme Court that the deceased had committed suicide. Abdul Saboor was the fourth civilian detained in the case to have died under mysterious circumstances over the past six months. Mohammad Aamir died on August 15 last year, Tahseen Ullah on December 17, and Said Arab on December 18.

However, a vigorous media reporting and sit-in stages by the families of the missing persons have turned out to be a glimmer of hope for the remaining 7 accused as the Supreme Court takes notice of the media reports, demanding that the government and security agencies bring the accused before the court.

4,000 disappeared in Baluchistan since 2001

Not surprisingly, in the US congressional hearing on Balochistan, chaired by Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director for Human Rights Watch, urged the US government to "communicate directly to the agencies responsible for disappearances and other abuses including the army, ISI, IB, Frontier Corps, police and other law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to demand an end to abuses and facilitate criminal inquiries to hold perpetrators accountable."

Hasan dubbed the military's role in the province as brutal, and an occupying one. He clarified that the HRW took no position on the issue of the independence of Balochistan.  He argued that the US and UK had made enforced disappearances possible by allowing them during the war on terror.

Dr M Hosseinbor, a Baloch lawyer and witness at the hearing, said that according to Baloch sources, nearly 4,000 people have disappeared in the province since 2001.

Pakistan 's disappeared persons

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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