ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights (SFCHR) on Monday told the government that all ‘missing’ people must be presented before courts and given chance to defend themselves.

“The protection of life and property of citizens is one of the basic responsibilities of the government and the forced disappearances are the grossest violation of human rights,” the committee observed during its meeting at the Parliament House.

The committee headed by Senator S.M. Zafar expressed its deep concern over the continued absence of missing persons and directed the interior ministry and other relevant government departments and agencies to prepare a comprehensive summary outlining complete details of the people, the causes of their disappearance and the efforts made to ascertain their whereabouts.

It said the matter had emerged as a major human rights issue, threatening the country’s image at home and abroad.

It observed that the response received so far from the government and related departments had been ‘inadequate and too little’ and it had taken ‘too much time’.

The committee was of the view that it was not sufficient to say that such and such persons were wanted in such and such cases, there should be proper application of law and the whole exercise should be carried out within the ambit of the law.

“The civilised world no longer buys such versions. Whatever be the charges, they should be properly probed and documented and a legal course of action should be resorted to,” the committee chairman said.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, said he had recently visited the United States and some European countries and whenever he had raised the issue of forced disappearances in held Kashmir and other human rights violations there, he had been reminded that the rights were also being violated in Pakistan where disappearances had become ‘a routine’.

The members of the committee said it was also a moral issue and a political government could not afford to ignore it, specially as general elections were going to be held.

They said the issue was seriously undermining the credibility of the government.

The interior ministry’s representative said the issue was being dealt with at the highest level. “We are in touch with the provincial governments and have been able to find some of the missing persons and intimate their families accordingly.”

“It is our apprehension that some of them might have gone underground on their own, that’s why newspaper reports indicate that quite a few of them addressed press conferences and again disappeared,” the representative said.

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