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PPP leader Farhatullah Baber addresses participants of the protest against enforced disappearances outside the National Press Club on Thursday.  — White Star
PPP leader Farhatullah Baber addresses participants of the protest against enforced disappearances outside the National Press Club on Thursday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: A large number of people, including politicians and activists, protested against enforced disappearances on the International Day of the Disappeared, which is marked on Aug 30 every year.

The protest was held outside the National Press Club but moved to D Chowk to show solidarity with the families of missing persons who were protesting there on the call of the Defence of Human Rights Pakistan.

Those in attendance included activists Nasreen Azhar and Tahira Abdulla, as well as former senator Farhatullah Babar.

Addressing the protest, Mr Babar asked if proof was needed of the involvement of state agencies in enforced disappearances after Gen Musharraf admitted to secretly handing over hundreds of alleged militants to the United States after 9/11 for millions of dollars.

“When the Supreme Court, parliament and civilian governments all fail to trace missing persons it clearly means that those involved were invisible and more powerful than the state. Till today, not a single person has been arrested and punished for the crime.

“Everyone knows that such total impunity can be enjoyed only be those individuals and institutions who reject transparency and accountability. Unless we have across the board accountability of all and unless we tear apart the shroud of secrecy, the problem will persist,” he said.

Those who challenge the state’s security narrative risk disappearing without a trace, while those purveying hate speech were allowed to go free, he said.

“Some missing persons have been shifted to internment centres where it was no longer possible to keep them in custody,” the former senator said. Calling these centres the “Abu Ghuraib prisons of Pakistan”, Mr Babar said there “is no complete information about them” nor about how many died in custody.

Mr Babar called for criminalising enforced disappearances, as Sri Lanka has done, signing the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and ending internment centres. He also called for the 2010 report of the first commission on enforced disappearances as well as of the United Nations working group that visited Pakistan in 20120 to be made public.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari condemned the disappearances and assured that the matter would be taken up in parliament.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2018