ISLAMABAD: The Senate may take up on Monday (today) an important resolution moved by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Senator Farhatullah Babar “calling upon the government to sign and ratify the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances”, Dawn has learnt.
The resolution that had been tabled by Presidential Spokesman and Senator Farhatullah Babar last month is at number 11 on the 17-point agenda issued for the Monday’s private members’ day in the Senate.
Mr Babar wants the upper house to pass the resolution urging the government of his own party to immediately ratify the convention which is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations and aimed at preventing forced disappearances as defined in the international law as a crime against humanity.
The all-party Parliamentary Committee on National Security headed by PPP Senator Raza Rabbani is also scheduled to take up the missing persons’ issue in a meeting to be held on Tuesday.
It was after the decision of former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf to become an ally of the US in the war on terror in 2001 that the reports about alleged “forced abductions“ started appearing in the media. Relatives of hundreds of missing persons formed their body and filed petitions in the Supreme Court seeking recovery of their loved ones alleging that these people were picked up by the security agencies on suspicion of having links with some terrorist organisations.
Later, the nationalist parties in the troubled province of Balochistan also came out with accusations that the country’s secret agencies were involved in abductions and killing of the youths in the province. It was only after the taking up of the cases by the apex court that some of the missing persons had reached home.
Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Mr Babar said that if allowed, he would explain in the Senate as to how this convention was “relevant” for Pakistan and the country could benefit from it. Mr Babar, who is also one of the petitioners in the missing persons’ case being heard by the Supreme Court, said it was the present PPP government that had signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT) and International Convention for Political and Economic Rights.
The PPP senator said that by ratifying the convention guaranteeing economic and political rights, it had now become obligatory to the Pakistan government to hold democratic elections in free and fair manner in the country and to carry out electoral reforms, for which the Election Commission of Pakistan had already initiated a process.
The convention against enforced disappearances drafted on the lines of CAT was adopted by the UN General Assembly through a resolution on January 12, 2007 and opened for signatures at a ceremony held in France in February 2007. Though, the convention has been signed by 90 countries, it has been ratified so far only by 20 countries.
The US and the UK, the two main partners in the ongoing war on terror, have so far not signed and ratified the convention expressing “reservations” on some of its articles.
The convention defines “enforced disappearance” as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the state or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared persons, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
The convention states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.” Besides this, the convention has declared the enforced disappearance as “a crime against humanity”.
It further states that “no order or instruction from any public authority, civilian, military or other, may be invoked to justify an offence of enforced disappearance”.
Under the convention, the signatory countries are bound to “investigate acts of enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice; ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes an offence under its criminal law; cooperate with other states in ensuring that offenders are prosecuted or extradited, and to assist the victims of enforced disappearance or locate and return their remains.”
It also guarantees that “victims of enforced disappearance or those directly affected by it have a right to obtain reparation and compensation.”
Another article of the convention says that “states shall cooperate with each other and shall afford one another the greatest measure of mutual assistance with a view to assisting victims of enforced disappearance, and in searching for, locating and releasing disappeared persons and, in the event of death, in exhuming and identifying them and returning their remains.”