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Task force on missing persons

Despite the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) intervention in the missing persons’ issue, no real headway seems to have been made. A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice instructed the federal government to come up with a comprehensive and efficacious policy within 10 days on how it plans to recover the missing persons. In response, the federal government has constituted a 19-member task force headed by Tariq Lodhi, who is currently serving as the additional interior secretary. Mr Lodhi has previously headed the National Crisis Management Cell, which was tasked with tracing the whereabouts of the missing persons by the previous government. The task force will also include the home secretaries and IGs of all four provinces in addition to representatives of intelligence agencies and officials of the Frontier Corps. Attorney General Munir Malik informed the three-member bench that the new task force will recommend a national policy on enforced disappearances and will also monitor the progress of all cases involving missing persons.

This step taken by the federal government was not received well by the Chief Justice, who said that the formation of this task force was not in compliance with the SC’s precise directives. The federal government was instructed to present a policy on the recovery of missing persons, not to constitute a task force. It is quite evident that the new PML-N government seems to be going around in circles instead of dealing with the issue head-on, much like the previous government. Additional red tape will not be helpful in dealing with the missing persons phenomenon. The practice of forcibly picking up citizens with impunity on mere suspicion is a serious matter that needs to be attended to on an urgent basis. Unfortunately, numerous cases of enforced disappearances have recently been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Karachi as well, showing that the missing persons phenomenon is no longer limited to Balochistan alone. The right to due process is a basic human right and every citizen should be granted this right in order to prevent unlawful detentions resulting from arbitrary state action. The intelligence agencies of Pakistan need to realize that arbitrarily and illegally depriving people of their freedoms is a recipe for disaster as this only creates more resentment. Moreover, they should operate within their prescribed mandate and should not work on their own agenda. Perhaps the only service the newly formed task force can render is to conduct a detailed and impartial investigation into each case so that the exact number (the subject of differing estimates and therefore controversy) and details of missing persons can be determined in order to retrieve them and action can be taken against those who try to enforce their own brand of justice. Those officials who are responsible for the abduction, torturing and killing of innocent civilians need to be held accountable. (Courtesy: Daily Times)

Published in the Balochistan Point on July 27, 2013

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