PPP finds defects in bill on enforced disappearances

Published June 25, 2021
Farhatullah Babar has said the bill recently introduced by the government in the National Assembly to curb the practice of enforced disappearances would not end the menace as it requires further deliberation and amendment. — DawnNewsTV/File
Farhatullah Babar has said the bill recently introduced by the government in the National Assembly to curb the practice of enforced disappearances would not end the menace as it requires further deliberation and amendment. — DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) secretary general Farhatullah Babar has said the bill recently introduced by the government in the National Assembly to curb the practice of enforced disappearances would not end the menace as it requires further deliberation and amendment.

In a statement here on Thursday, the PPP secretary general cautioned against rushing through the bill and called for inviting all stakeholders to the relevant standing committee of the National Assembly or holding of public hearings.

Mr Babar said about 20 legislative items were listed on the National Assembly agenda on June 7. In the din of noise over the legislation for Electronic Voting Machines, he said, an amendment bill introduced by the interior minister escaped public attention and scrutiny.

He said the amendment bill sought to amend some provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), adding that it was quickly referred to the relevant committee without any discussion. As a result, he said, it escaped media and public attention.

Mr Babar was of the view that enforced disappearances must be treated as a separate autonomous crime and a separate legal mechanism was needed for taking up complaints, holding perpetrators accountable and providing for compensation to the aggrieved families.

“The amendment bill does not meet these requirements,” he said.

“A holistic approach is needed. Legislation needs to be made to determine the mandate of the ISI, provide guarantees that anyone deprived of liberty is kept at a fully authorised place of detention, provide protection to victims, their families and witnesses and also compensation to them,” Mr Babar said.

“Ratification of the international convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances should also form part of the new legal architecture to address the issue,” he suggested.

“In mid-1960s, a military dictator made an amendment 2 (1) (d) in the Army Act to give powers to the army to investigate and try in military courts even civilians in some cases. Such a law does not exist even in India and Israel,” he said, adding that “it was under this provision in the Army Act that human rights defender Idris Khattak remained disappeared for over eight months until, as a result of national and international outcry, his custody was acknowledged by security agencies.”

“The legislative mechanism must, therefore, also include undoing this amendment made in the Army Act,” he demanded.

Mr Babar said the bill was crucial to protecting human rights. Any legislation must be piloted by the human rights ministry instead of law enforcing ministry because of fundamental differences in their outlooks and approaches to the issue.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021

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