Over a decade has passed since Attiqur Rehman, a scientific officer at Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, went missing under mysterious circumstances in his hometown Abbottabad. He disappeared on Jun 23, 2004, a day before his marriage. His parents and other family members continued searching for him but without any progress. His parents were often seen in demonstrations organised in different cities including Islamabad by the relatives of missing persons.

An FIR against disappearance of Attiqur Rehman was registered at Abbottabad City police station on July 7, 2004, under section 365 of Pakistan Penal Code. While his family members continued moving from one court to another, filing petitions for his safe recovery, presently the case has been pending before the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CIED). In the police record the case has still been mentioned as “under investigation”.

In fact, several of the cases pending before the commission are chronic in nature as the alleged detainees were taken into custody or had gone missing many years ago but the investigating authorities remained clueless in this regard. In large number of cases, FIRs were registered by police in different districts but the investigations have not been making any headway as the concerned families mostly suspected involvement of security agencies in the disappearances of their missing relatives.

Few months ago Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police compiled a report on the cases of “enforced disappearances” pertaining to this province and pending before the CIED. According to the report, police had received a total of 1,066 cases of “enforced disappearances” related to different districts in the province.

Out of those 1,066 cases, police claimed that 651 persons had still been missing whereas 415 were traced. Interestingly, most of the traced persons have either been interned in notified internment centres or they were set free by their captors. In eight of the cases in Swat, the missing persons were killed by their captors.

According to the report, Swat district tops the list as presently 277 missing person are enlisted there. Police claim that of these 277 persons, 32 are proclaimed offenders, whereas rests of the 245 persons are not required to them in any case.

Similarly, a total of 80 cases of missing persons from Peshawar are pending with the police followed by Kohat, D I Khan and Dir Lower with 47, 34 and 31 cases, respectively.

In some of the cases multiple members of a single family were picked and they remained untraced. In one of the cases, six brothers were allegedly taken into custody by the law enforcement agencies in July 2013 from Samarbagh in Dir Lower. An FIR against their “enforced disappearance” was registered at Samarbagh police station on April 22, 2014. Finally, when the commission took up for hearing their cases on March 10, 2015, it was informed that the six detainees were set free by their captors and had returned home.

Interestingly, the police report also included name of Haider Ali, a missing person who was convicted by a military court and was sentenced to death. The mother of the convict has filed a writ petition before Peshawar High Court, challenging his conviction by the military court. The petition has now been pending. She claimed that he was a 10th grade student. His family members claim that on Sept 21, 2009, Haider Ali was handed over to security forces in Swat following which he remained missing.

On April 2, ISPR announced that six suspected terrorists were awarded death sentences by the military courts. Later on, the media reported that one of the convicts was Haider Ali. So far it has not been made public under what charges he was tried and subsequently convicted. But one thing is clear that while his case was pending with the commission he had been in the custody.

In one of the FIRs, registered by local police on Dec 29, 2012, at Kanju police station in Swat four brothers were allegedly taken into custody by security forces after which they remained missing. Police in its report stated that two of the brothers were proclaimed offenders.

Similarly, another case registered as FIR 424 at Kanju police station in Swat relates to four missing brothers. The brothers had gone missing in 2008. The family has charged security forces for their “enforced disappearance”. There are several cases wherein two or three brothers have gone missing and their cases are still unresolved. In most of the cases, police registered FIRs after intervention of commission or courts.

Early this year the CIED had stated that during last four years 982 missing persons had been located while 1273 cases were still pending. In its report submitted to the Supreme Court, the commission had stated that out of the pending cases, 632 belonged to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 198 to Punjab, 186 to Sindh, 122 to Balochistan, 43 to Fata, 11 to Azad Jammu Kashmir and 30 to Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Similarly, 409 of the traced persons belonged to KP, 254 to Punjab, 199 to Sindh and 50 to Balochistan.

“I was summoned several times by police officers and asked to specifically charge any official for the disappearance of my son since 2009, but I could not name any of the officials as I do not know them,” said father of a missing person. He said that he was told by a former missing person that his son was detained with him at a centre run by an agency. However, he added that the said person was not willing to appear before the court or police to give the said statement.

Experts believe that when internment centres were notified in 2011 it was a general impression that the phenomenon of missing persons would now end and the illegal detainees would be shifted to these centres. However, the phenomenon continues to persist as still there are detainees, who have not been interned in these centres and remained missing.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2015

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