Committee on missing persons in the works, says human rights minister

Published November 26, 2023
Caretaker Human Rights Minister Khalil George speaks in an interview on Sunday. — DawnNewsTV
Caretaker Human Rights Minister Khalil George speaks in an interview on Sunday. — DawnNewsTV

Caretaker Human Rights Minister Khalil George has said that a committee on the issue of missing persons is in the works, adding that the government was “thoroughly” looking into the matter.

The human rights minister made the remarks in an interview on Dawn News show ‘Doosra Rukh’ today.

The remarks come days after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar to appear before the court on November 29 (Wednesday) if he did not secure the recovery of more than 50 allegedly missing Baloch students.

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday had also hinted at summoning the caretaker prime minister if police and provincial administration could not make any progress in recovery of missing persons.

In an interview with Dawn News, George said, “The prime minister is planning a committee on missing persons with the interior minister and other ministers so the issue can be fully analysed. Such as where are the missing persons, how many there are and what is their status.”

He said the finer details regarding the finalisation of the committee were under way. However, the minister said that the government’s stance was that the number of missing persons was not as high as some claimed.

George said the government was “thoroughly” looking into the matter and the committee would investigate the details of those who were missing. At the same time, he said that the committee’s terms of reference (TORs) had not yet been drafted, adding that its mandate would be determined once this was done.

Questioned if the committee would really be able to solve the problem, the human rights minister said every committee formulated tried its best to discharge its responsibility.

“Obviously, according to Pakistan’s laws, a citizen is the responsibility of the state and the state is well aware of this […]. Let’s see what the committee does. I have complete trust in the committee, that it will do its job.”

‘State has no hand in disappearances’

In an interview on Saturday night, PM Kakar had addressed the issue of missing Baloch students, stating that he would not be appearing in the IHC due to other commitments and the government would offer representation at the appropriate platform when feasible. He explained the circumstances of the students’ disappearance and emphasised the government’s “purported lack of involvement”.

“State has no hand in these disappearances. Most times, the security forces pick up the people who’re involved in activities which are against the law,” he said.

“The backlash we’re facing right now because according to Baloch leaders, we’re the ‘undertaker’ government not taking enough steps towards release of these people,” he said, questioning the lack of public outcry when lawyers, doctors, and other respected citizens faced similar threats and violence in the past.

On Friday, caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti had expressed concerns about the IHC summoning the prime minister. The minister had said that it was unsuitable for the court to call the premier for every minor issue.

The prime minister had supported Bugti’s assertion, highlighting that the count of missing persons in Pakistan is the “lowest in the region,” emphasising it as both an aspect and a reality.

Moreover, in an interview with BBC Urdu at the end of September, PM Kakar had claimed that according to a UN sub-committee’s estimates, around 50 people were forcibly disappeared in Balochistan.

“Sometimes, we receive complaints in which they give us 5,000 names claiming they are missing. [They are] not ready to accept any UN best practices on collection of data of missing persons,” he had said, adding the issue was used as a “propaganda tool” against the state. Later, the human rights minister had backed the premier’s claim.

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