Pakistan rights body decries government claim on 'missing'
Apr 8, 2007 - 4:00:55 PM

Lahore, April 8 - The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan - has refuted the government's claim that more than 150 people termed 'missing' or 'disappeared' were jihadis who had gone on their own to fight for Al Qaeda or other Islamist militant organisations.

Almost all the missing were 'nationalists', who were against militant organisations, HRPC chairperson Asma Jahangir said Saturday.

President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have on different occasions denied that the missing people were in the illegal custody of various intelligence agencies. They have claimed that most of the missing people were either criminals who had violated the law or had joined Islamist militancy on their own.

Jahangir demanded that the Supreme Court, that is hearing various petitions, should set up an independent judicial commission to probe the matter and question the people related to the cases.

The issue of missing persons has caught public attention after Masuda Janjua, the wife of one such person, led protest demonstrations and filed a petition before the apex court listing 199 missing cases. Then Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry criticised the government and directed a probe into the cases and gathering of information about them.

Another missing person's wife got past Musharraf's security at a recent rally, fell at his feet and submitted a written petition. The president denied that the intelligence agencies had any role in the detention but promised to look into the matter.

More than 168 people have 'disappeared' since 2004 'according to authentic information', Jahangir said, and only 20 of them had been found so far.

HRCP asked the federal government to trace more than 150 people who went missing in the last three years, adding that the 'disappearing' citizens were not jihadis as the government maintained, but 'victims of intelligence agencies'.

The commission criticised the interior minister for his statement that only 10 of the missing people had been found so far because the government could not trace the addresses of the rest.

It asked the Supreme Court to announce a judicial commission to probe into the matter, collect solid evidence and record statements of the victims' families.

The HRCP was updating its information continuously on such people, Jahangir said, adding that 24 people had disappeared in 2007 so far.

She said the interior ministry was 'negligent' for not being able to find information about all the missing people. 'We even have the names of law enforcement and intelligence personnel who arrested the victims before they disappeared,' she said.

The information minister should step down if he was not efficient enough to trace the missing people, Jahangir said.

She said there were very clear cases in Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh where law enforcement agencies arrested the missing people in front of several witnesses.

Apart from the Supreme Court's suo moto notice of the issue and several other petitions, the HRCP has also filed a constitutional petition in the SC on the 'disappearances' calling it 'a blatant violation of the constitution'. A hearing of the case is scheduled on April 10.

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