Speakers demand safe recovery of Raza Khan, other missing persons
LAHORE: Participants of a seminar demanded of the government to criminalise enforced disappearances, ratify the international convention (on enforced disappearances), make public the three-member commission of judges’ report of 2010 and implement its recommendations and empower the Commission of Inquiry and turn it into a judicial commission.
The daylong seminar was arranged by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) at the SAFMA Auditorium on the topic of the enforced disappearances. Besides family members of the missing persons, peace and human rights activists, civil society members, teachers, artists, students and others participated and shared their point of view.
Continuing to put pressure on the authorities, the participants demanded safe recovery of all the missing persons including social activist Raza Mahmood Khan who went missing from Lahore on December 2, 2017, in mysterious circumstances. “All these disappearances are against articles 4, 9, 10 and 14 of Pakistan’s Constitution and articles 3, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” they pointed out.
“We have to understand that this practice of enforced disappearances is illegal, inhumane and is counterproductive to nation building and peace-building,” the participants said. On the occasion, a documentary on the enforced disappearance was screened. Salima Hashmi recited the tale of Hasan Nasir (1928-1960), a proletariat leader hanged in jail, blending into a poem of Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
Sharing trauma of the victim families, Hina Jilani said that this was not an issue of law as this state was not interested in law and legal values. “You have to remember that your dirty narrative will not work, as your narrative ‘blessed us’ with international isolation,” she said while criticising the role of some of the state institutions.
She also criticised the government for its failure to work properly and said that the people could go directly to the United Nations and other relevant international forums for their rights against these nameless and faceless people and their activities. Speaking on the occasion, Lal Khan said that the Pakistani state was only serving the interests of the powerful. Raheemul Haque shared a history of the enforced disappearances.
Quoting a former army general, Imtiaz Alam said that the 90 per cent of the ‘independent’ media was under control of the ‘state.’ He said that he (the general) told him that this (controlling the media) was a ‘fifth generation of warfare.’ Suggesting a civil democratic movement, he said that the state would have to give an answer on the disappearance of Raza Khan, convener of the Aaghaz-e-Dosti, an initiative to help young people from Pakistan and India come closer.
Calling Raza Khan a symbol, Ahmed Rashid said that Pakistan was becoming an authoritarian state. Tariq Farooq said that the missing activist was facing a tough time due to his open support for peace and friendship especially friendship with neighbouring states. Addressing the participants, Saeeda Diep vowed to continue struggle against the disappearances and said that no one would be allowed to pick up young people in violation of basic human rights and the constitution.
In Pakistan, “shrinking space for freedom of expression is extremely disturbing,” she said, adding that the state would have to understand that all these disappearances were bringing disrepute to the country. IA Rehman demanded of the government to make the 2010 judicial commission report public and follow its recommendations. He informed the participants that there were seven undercover cells like an infamous detention camp located within a US Naval Base on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.
On the occasion, Aftab Javed received a round of applause for his fresh poem about Raza Khan. The speakers told the participants that the enforced disappearances have become prevalent and one hears about new disappearance every day. Currently, as many as 1,498 cases of the enforced disappearances pending with the inquiry commission as of November 2017.