ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary committee on Thursday called for disbanding the present Commission on Enforced Disappearances and replacing it with a new one. The committee has recommended the new commission should have investigation experts as members and that it should be required to make its reports public.

The directions from the Senate Functional Standing Committee on Human Rights followed after PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar asserted that the Commission on Enforced Disappearances had failed in its responsibilities in recovering missing persons and fixing responsibility for the crime.

The committee met for a briefing from the Balochistan government on missing and retrieved persons.

Hameedullah Nasir, additional secretary, Government of Balochistan, told the committee that some 130 individuals are still missing. “Family members have declined to register FIRs. Some retrieved individuals refuse to talk to investigation officers which can help find others still missing,” he said. According to the senior official, 27 of those recovered were dead.

Senator Babar argued that enforced disappearances continue because the commission has not been able to pursue investigations into the identity of the kidnappers in light of victim statements. The law under which the commission was set up empowers it but also obligates the commission to do so, he said.

“The commission takes credit for recovering over 2,000 missing persons during the last six years but it has nothing to show by way of pursuing investigations or filing FIRs against individuals or institutions found involved in enforced disappearances,” he maintained.

He proposed that the Senate committee invite the recovered individuals and speak to them so their statements can be taken forward. The proposal was accepted by the committee.

Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jalamdini said it is pointless to talk to the Balochistan government and suggested that sector commanders Inter Services Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, the home secretary and chief secretary be invited for answers.

Mr Babar continued by arguing that the law has since been amended to empower the commission for making its reports public directly without requiring government approval and asked what had prevented the commission from making periodic reports public.

The committee called for making public the report of the first 2010 commission under the late Justice Mansoor Kamal, which worked for a year only.

Mr Babar called for looking into what was going on in internment centres across the country which, according to him, are Guantanamo Bay like prisons.

He said the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulation promulgated in 2011 was given a back dated effect from 2008 to enable law enforcing agencies to bring into open those caught during the fight against militancy in Swat and Malakand and to hold open trial while protecting the agencies from prosecution.

“This is an extraordinary concession to the agencies. These centres are virtual black holes from which no information is forthcoming,” the senator said.

All state institutions such as the Supreme Court, parliament, the National Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on Enforced Disappearances appear helpless in addressing the issue of missing persons.

“This clearly means that the invisible perpetrators of the crime are far more powerful than all these state institutions put together,” Senator Babar said.

The chairperson of the committee, Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senator Nasreen Jalil said the safety of retrieved persons will be guaranteed and that they will not be harassed or harmed by security agencies after their statements are recorded.

The menace of enforced disappearances has gone too far, she said and brought up the case of Raza Khan, who has recently gone missing.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2017

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