‘PM advised to sign convention against enforced disappearances’

Published November 6, 2018
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari says PTI is committed to ending enforced disappearances. — File photo
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari says PTI is committed to ending enforced disappearances. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Human Rights has suggested that the prime minister sign the International Convention against Enforced Disappearances, Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said on Monday.

She also said that the PTI was committed to ending enforced disappearances.

“Country-wide legislation takes a lot of time as bills get stuck in different ministries. So for quick redress, we should sign the convention with reservations over three clauses which do not suit Pakistan,” she said at a meeting of the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights.

Although she did not reveal what these three clauses are, it has been suggested during various parliamentary committees to express reservations over section 26 of the convention, which empowers a United Nations body to conduct raids in countries and make surprise visits to check missing persons.

Truth and reconciliation commission should be established, work will continue on domestic enforced disappearances bill, minister says

Dr Marazi added that “we can ratify the convention later”, but signing the convention would send the message to the people and the international community “that we are serious about it”.

She said families were suffering while their loved ones had been missing for years, so a truth and reconciliation commission should also be established.

She said Prime Minister Imran Khan also wishes to address the issue, as he spoke about it while in opposition.

The minister said that they would simultaneously continue working on the domestic bill and “with the passage of time we will pass a comprehensive domestic bill regarding enforced disappearances”.

There is a long list of missing persons, which has even been tabled in parliament, Senator Dr Jehanzeb Jamaldini from the Balochistan National Party (BNP-M) said during the meeting.

“The people of Balochistan have confidence in Justice Kamal Mansoor’s report. However, they have reservations over the reports of Justice Noor Mohammad Meskanzai and Justice Javed Iqbal on enforced disappearances.

“Retired Justice Iqbal says that the majority of missing persons are out of the country and others are in feudals’ jails. According to him, only 3pc of missing persons are in internment centres. If this is correct, why are the relatives of missing persons running after politicians and wasting their time,” he asked.

Senator Jamaldini said that under the National Action Plan (NAP), missing persons are to be produced in court within 10 days of their arrest. However, this could not be implemented.

“Relatives are waiting for their loved ones, and they have every right to know if those missing persons are alive or not. Moreover, the committee should record the statements of those who have been recovered,” he added.

Committee chair Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar from the PPP said enforced disappearance is a burning issue. The National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) had drafted a bill on enforced disappearances which was rejected by the government, he added.

There is currently no law regarding enforced disappearance in Pakistan, and a law should be made at the earliest, he said.

“While we were in government we tried to sign the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance, but failed. It could not be signed during the PML-N government and may not be signed during the PTI government. So serious efforts should be made for domestic legislation along with the signing of the convention,” he said.

The committee has decided to hold its next meeting solely on the missing persons issue and associated legislation.

Piera briefs senators

The committee was also given a comprehensive briefing by the chairman of the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority regarding steps taken against undue fee increases by private schools.

Senators were told the matter was deliberated on at length by the NCHR and a committee has been constituted under the federal ombudsman by the Supreme Court as well to report on the matter.

The committee decided to defer the matter until the end of the month so the report may be discussed.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2018

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