State apathy

Published June 28, 2022

AN individual occupying a position of power which carries with it considerable social responsibility could not be expected to make such bizarre, irresponsible statements.

In a recent TV interview, the human rights minister, PML-N’s Riaz Pirzada, made the claim that some missing persons had been “engaged” by hostile foreign elements, including the detained Indian spy, Kulbhushan Jadhav. In the same interview, he also seemingly defended security forces’ heavy-handed tactics in counterterrorism operations while complaining that people had only started protesting and “raising the missing persons issue” after the state took action in the aftermath of terrorism incidents in Quetta.

Read more: Minister’s remarks over missing persons flayed

Instead of using his office as a bulwark against inhumane practices, the minister seemed more keen that other agencies and ministries deal with outstanding human rights issues, ignoring the fact that elements within the security apparatus are the primary cause of problems like enforced disappearances.

It is a wonder why Mr Pirzada holds the human rights portfolio when his apathy on pressing concerns is so obvious. His callous remarks on missing persons are the latest example of the state victim-blaming rather than giving families of missing persons concrete answers about their whereabouts.

While it may be true that some individuals may have joined forces with inimical powers, it is up to the state to provide facts and information when it is aware of such cases rather than obfuscate an already contentious issue with what look like half-baked accusations. It is worth asking why such information isn’t shared: is it simply because the actual numbers would weaken the state’s position on the matter? The people have a right to know.

Read more: ‘Missing’ in Pakistan

During the interview, the minister also kept insisting that his ministry was powerless and that there was nothing it could do to address major human rights concerns other than act as a post office between citizens and the state. We cannot take two steps back every time we take a step towards resolving our issues.

The Constitution on which our state stands provides protections to all citizens. No individual or organ of the state can arbitrarily decide to act in violation of its provisions. The minister would do well to revisit his stance before further damage is done to the fight for civil rights. Pandering to powerful entities and allowing them a free hand to perpetuate a culture of impunity is a great disservice to those fighting for a better future.

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2022

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