Govt to criminalise enforced disappearances: minister

Published August 31, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Relatives and friends of missing persons take part in a demonstration against disappearances on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: Relatives and friends of missing persons take part in a demonstration against disappearances on Monday.—Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari said on Monday enforced disappearances were unacceptable in a democracy and the government was set to approve laws to make enforced disappearances a criminal offence.

On International Day of the Disappeared, the federal minister said the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Interior had approved a bill on enforced disappearances just last week.

Dr Mazari, in a series of tweets, slammed the previous governments for not doing enough to tackle the issue of enforced disappearances.

“Sadly, time lost because no previous government moved on enforced disappearances,” she tweeted.

The minister said the NA standing committee approved the bill after consultations with all stakeholders.

“In our first meeting at the Ministry of Human Rights, we had the then PPP chair of the Senate human rights committee participate. Once introduced in NA it was available on NA website so to say no one knew the content is absurd. No one objected on the floor of the NA or in the committee,” she said.

The minister pointed out that Prime Minister Imran Khan had met the families of the Baloch “disappeared” persons. They provided details about their missing family members.

“Some have returned home while others are being traced,” she claimed.

Dr Mazari said the prime minister met the chairperson of the Defence of Human Rights in Pakistan, Amina Janjua, to discuss the matter.

However, secretary general of the Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamen­tarians Farhatullah Khan Babar called upon the federal government to come clean on the terms of the special cell and the progress made by it.

In a statement, the senior PPP leader said that enforced disappearance was a crime against humanity and Pakistan must end the impunity of this heinous crime before it was leveraged by the international community to pressure Pakistan.

He said that the recently introduced Bill on Enforced Disappe­arances was more of a political statement than a genuine move forward. Section 365 of the Pakistan Penal Code already criminalises unlawful abductions and deprivation of liberty and there is nothing new in the Bill in this respect, according to him.

Mr Babar called for a new and comprehensive legal architecture to address the issue.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2021

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