Enforced disappearances

People want action from ruling alliance

Making citizens disappear is a heinous crime. The disappearance is a back-breaking occurrence for a family if the victim is the sole bread-earner or a promising youngster. In case government agencies are seen to be involved in the act, forced disappearances can generate anti-state sentiment in communities. While in the opposition the PPP, the PML(N) and the PTI promised to bring back missing persons to their families. Once in power they thought it wiser not to press the issue too far with the establishment. Most of the disappearances took place in Balochistan, followed by other provinces and Islamabad.

Some of the cases taken to the courts recently were so shocking that the Chief Justice of he Islamabad High Court made the observation that an enforced disappearance is a heinous crime which is unacceptable in a society based on law and constitution. As the numbers of the disappeared citizens continued to increase despite the courts’ observations, Chief Justice Athar Minallah posed the question if the crime could be curbed by imposing a penalty on the prime minister and his cabinet as ultimately they are responsible for it. Early this month the court summoned PM Shehbaz Sharif and some of his cabinet ministers. The Chief Jusice ordered the government to resolve this issue by November 14 or the court would hold someone accountable in its verdict.

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Recently, the dead bodies of three MQM workers kidnapped years back were recovered from different parts of Sindh. The MQM being a crucial coalition member, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah visited its party Headquarters where he reiterated that the state was responsible for recovering citizens made to disappear by force. The Interior Minister conceded that those who made citizens disappear violated the constitution and tarnished the country’s image. While admitting that the government had limited writ in this regard, the Interior Minister claimed that his government had a comprehensive plan to stop the occurrences. He was confident that this time the government would leave no stone unturned to fix the menace once and for all. Never in the country’s history have courts taken such tough stands against forced disappearances. It is time for the government to show spine instead of complaining about “limited writ”. In case the PM fails to assert himself as the country’s Chief Executive, his words would carry little weight with coalition partners, people or the courts.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected]

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