Five civil society activists — including (from left) Waqas Goraya, Salman Haider, Samar Abbas and Asim Saeed — have gone missing over the past one week.
Five civil society activists — including (from left) Waqas Goraya, Salman Haider, Samar Abbas and Asim Saeed — have gone missing over the past one week.

ISLAMABAD: The sudden re-emergence of the phenomenon of enforced disappearances prompted a call in the Senate on Friday for legislation to bring state agencies under the ambit of law.

Speaking on a point of public importance, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Senate Committee of the Whole on speedy and inexpensive justice had recently forwarded its recommendations to the government, one of which was related to missing persons and included draft legislation to bring the state agencies under the ambit of the law.

He said it had been decided that if the government did not respond to the draft law then the parliamentary leaders would sign it and get it approved from the house as a private members’ bill.

Addressing the Senate chairman, he said that since a 60-day period was over, the recommendation of the report on speedy and inexpensive justice be implemented in letter and spirit.

Call to bring agencies under ambit of law

“The mysterious disappearance of civil society activists from Islamabad soon after the Senate taking up the issue and the interior minister’s assurance that disappearances will not be allowed is a stark message to parliament, the interior minister and the civil society that their protests notwithstanding, citizens will continue to disappear with impunity. In the native parlance the message is ‘hor chupo’.”

Forcefully raising the issue of continued disappearances in the country, lately in the federal capital also, he said the whisking away of human rights activists is also a case in point.

“The situation is getting worse by the day. The Supreme Court identified those involved in the disappearance of 28 persons from an internment centre in Malakand, yet nothing happened.

“Mutilated bodies of the mysteriously disappeared have been found dumped in Balochistan. Their relatives have refused to register cases in what is clearly growing distrust and alienation from the state and society and the state is not moved.”

The senator regretted that not a single perpetrator involved in enforced disappearances had been held accountable.

“It is a wake-up call for parliament and the nation to address the issue before it is too late,” he said.

Minister of State for Interior Baleeghur Rahman was supposed to inform the house about the status of investigations into the latest incidents of mysterious disappearance of people, but could not make it. Law Minister Zahid Hamid informed the house that the minister of state had some pre-scheduled engagements and he would represent him.

He informed the house that the latest disappearance of a person from the federal capital had not yet been reported to police. He said the interior minister had taken notice of the disappearance and asked the police to obtain details in this regard. Senate Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani pointed out that members of the victim’s family were talking about the disappearance.

He said Mr Rahman should inform the house on Monday about progress on the issue of five persons who had become victims of enforced disappearance during the past 12 days.

“Parliament appears to be deaf to the threats from these individual groups or government functionaries,” the chairman remarked.

During the question hour, the Senate was informed that cases of 15 non-government organisations (NGOs) receiving foreign funding were under process for registration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.

The law minister, on behalf of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, said the documents of the local NGOs receiving foreign contributions had been circulated among ‘stakeholders’ for their comments.

He said the finance ministry had a limited mandate regarding NGOs that was restricted to registration of local organisation receiving foreign funding.

Published in Dawn January 14th, 2017

A correction was carried out in this story.