Rocking the unpopular US-client government of President Asif Ali Zardari, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has reopened the cases of thousands of missing or disappeared persons during General Musharraf's regime. In a major setback to the government, Pakistan's Supreme Court last month declared the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as unconstitutional and ordered the government to reopen money laundering case against him in Switzerland.
Perhaps the issue of missing persons and the NRO's legality were the main causes behind the US and President Zardari's reluctance to reinstate the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftekhar Chaudhry. However, under intensive public pressure and massive pro-Chief Justice demonstrations, President Zardari and Washington agreed to his restoration in March last year.
Now the nightmare is coming true.
The Supreme Court decision against the NRO has already opened a Pandora's box. There are calls for the resignation of President Zardari and many of his ministers who were given amnesty under the NRO.
On January 7, 2010, the Supreme Court opened another front against the Zardari government with the resumption of hearings on the case of thousands of disappeared or missing persons apparently kidnapped by the intelligence agencies and many of whom have been handed over to the United States.
What is an enforced disappearance?
An enforced disappearanceoccurs when a person is arrested, detained or abducted by the state or agents acting for the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law. Very often, people who have disappeared are never released and their fate remains unknown.
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