• Interior minister says state responsible for recovering citizens disappeared by force; terms issue ‘more painful than death’
• Rana Sanaullah says govt focused on addressing issue ‘where solution lies’

KARACHI: Describing those involved in “enforced disappearances” of political workers, human rights activists and other individuals as violators of the Constitution, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Tuesday claimed to have taken up the matter in line with the premier’s directives, which included a comprehensive plan to address the issue that, he said, was “more painful than death”.

However, talking to reporters after meeting coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment-Pakistan (MQM-P) at the party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad, the interior minister apparently conceded the government had limited writ in this regard.

When asked that some enforced disappearance cases dated back to the previous governments of the PML-N and PPP in the centre, he said: “There’s no denying and we all know that how much writ successive governments have had and [the current one] still has in this regard and what are its other aspects.”

He reiterated this in a tweet later on, saying: “It’s a matter of embarrassment for the state that instead of bringing people under the law, they are disappeared and then their bodies are found. Everyone knows the extent of the governments’ writ in this regard. I assure you that we are trying to solve the problem through reconciliation rather than confrontation.”

Still, during the presser, Mr Sanaullah was confident that this time the government would leave no stone unturned to fix the menace once and for all that remains unresolved for decades despite claims from the respective governments, civil administrations and the judiciary.

The interior minister, who drove to the MQM-P’s office minutes after landing at Karachi airport, held a detailed meeting with the leaders of the party and also met with the families of workers who had been missing for the past several years.

After more than an hour-long sitting, he addressed the media along with MQM-P leaders to share the details of his engagement and, probably for the first time, came up with strong-worded thoughts on the subject.

Editorial: Missing empathy

His visit to Karachi came after the MQM-P strongly reacted to the recovery of bodies of its missing workers from different parts of Sindh. The party even questioned the reason for being a coalition partner after it came under serious pressure within the party ranks and workers, who protested against the non-implementation of a “charter of rights” agreed with the PPP and the PML-N in March to strike a deal with the ruling coalition on almost all of its years-old demands.

“The MQM is our coalition partner and I am here with Sardar Ayaz Sadiq to convey assurance on behalf of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif that we would not leave any stone unturned to address their grievances [about missing workers],” Mr Sanaullah told reporters said.

“I can imagine the feelings and pain of the families [of the missing persons]. This grief is more painful than death and those involved in this [enforced disappearance] are actually violating the Constitution of Pakistan. We are absolutely clear about this. And we will do everything we can.”

He said disappearing people by force had tarnished the country’s image the world over and attracted serious questions from global organisations on Pakistan and its affairs.

The MQM-P was not the only party facing this issue, as the same was the case in Balochistan, Mr Sanaullah admitted, adding that recently the federal government had made a similar attempt in Quetta to convince demonstrators, who had been staging a sit-in for 50 days for the recovery of their missing loved ones, to call off their protest.

To a question about his confidence in addressing the decades-old issue, the interior minister said he would prove this with action instead of giving a statement, as it could “drag him from his objective”.

“There’s no denying and we all know how much writ successive governments have had and it still has in this regard,” he said but added that he wouldn’t make a statement that might help him win brownie points but put the real issue on the back burner.

“I assure you that we are focused on addressing this issue from where it can get resolved,” he said. “We would do whatever we can to protect the fundamental rights of every citizen. Any person who disappears, his or her recovery is the state’s responsibility.”

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2022

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