LAHORE: Former Senator Farhatullah Babar says enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings have been there since decades but they were institutionalised during the regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf who acknowledged in his book, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, the people of Pakistan were hunted for the CIA against millions of dollars but no action was taken against Musharraf as the state agencies were involved in it.
“In 2018, we called the chairman of the commission on enforced disappearances to the Senate and he was asked many questions. When he was asked about the prosecution and investigation, he said the missing persons, after their return, would not want to pursue their cases,” Mr Babar said in a session “Rights of Detainees and Prisoners” on the second day of Asma Jahangir Conference here at a private hotel.
He said 153 army personnel had been identified and it was said that action was being taken against them but nothing practical was done. He added that in a statement of the ISPR, it was said that not all missing persons were in custody of the forces, in other words, admitting that at least some missing persons were in their custody.
“Akhtar Mengal had threatened not to vote for the budget unless missing persons from Balochistan were released and on his demand, 48 missing persons were set free. The question is who released them and the answer is the state agencies.”
Mr Babar lamented that the commission on enforced disappearance had failed because it had not been able to investigate even a single person involved in missing persons cases, let alone prosecute them. It claimed to have secured the release of 3,800 people but not even in one case, it had been able to investigate and prosecute those responsible, the senator added.
“The Senate committee asked the Balochistan government to give a list of the mutilated bodies found in the last two years. It gave the figure of 53 but no FIR was registered because the relatives did not want it, showing the distrust of people in the government.”
Mr Babar said more than 7,000 cases of enforced disappearances had been registered but not a single case was investigated because of the elephant in the room, which did not permit it. He suggested that the intelligence agencies should be brought under some legislation as solution to the enforced disappearances.
Advocate Shabbir Hussain Gigyani from Peshawar said since 2006 when the Talibanisation started, the people of tribal areas were deprived of their legal rights. The extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearances started in the areas started in 2008 when the army operation was launched and there was no legislation on it. In 2011, he added, the parliament gave a legal protection to the operation perhaps under the direction of the armed forces.
Mr Gigyani said making law was not a big deal but the enforcement of law was more important, which was an issue.
“The American public had protested against the Guantanamo Bay prison but there are even worse kind of detention centres in Pakistan in the areas of Lakki Marwant, Kohat, Peshawar and Khyber district where 8,000 people were being kept as per the report of the state,” he added.
Rights activist Amna Janjua described the ordeal after her husband went missing in 2005. She and her family are still waiting for his return while their questions go unanswered. The session was moderated by Saroop Ejaz.
Senator Waleed Iqbal says that since he took over as the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, several laws have been taken up, including those on protection of the senior citizens, domestic violence, domestic workers and corporal punishment.
“Other than legislation, the committee has taken up the Noor Muqaddam case and Minar-i-Pakistan harassment incident. What I have learnt from these cases and the empirical evidence that it’s not severity of punishment that actually deters crimes, particularly of violence against women, it’s the certainty of the punishment that deters it when a perpetrator is aware is that the law will chase up after him and punish him,” said Mr Iqbal during a session on “Anti-Rape Legislation–Barriers to Implementation” at the Asma Jahangir Conference.
He said there was the Section 354-A of PPC addressing that kind of incidents like Minar-i-Pakistan and it prescribes death penalty and life imprisonment for the perpetrator.
“The section has been there since 1984 from the era of Gen Zial Haq but it did not deter crimes of this nature because there was no certainty of punishment.”
Mr Iqbal pointed out the victim-blaming, particularly of women, in the subcontinent due to a certain cultural mindset, which could be changed only through training and education.
“The male children in the family should be trained to respect women and the rule of the law.” The new anti-rape law would also face the same fate as the earlier legislation if there would be no certainty of punishment and change in the mindset, he added.
Nida Aly, the executive director of AGHS Legal Aid Cell, said there was no dearth of laws in Pakistan but their implementation was the issue.
“There was legislation on rape in 2016 and now a new law is being introduced but the question is whether the earlier law was implemented.”
She pointed out the lack of resources as a hurdle to implementation of laws.
“There were 34,000 rape cases registered but none of them was tried according the anti-rape law. When CCPO was asked why the anti-rape law was not followed, he replied there were no resources allocated for it, saying they needed Rs4.5bn to make infrastructure for investigation centres and Rs1.5bn to run them.”
Assistant Inspector General of Police Maria Mehmood and former chairperson of Punjab Commission on Status of Women Fauzia Viqar also spoke.
Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2021