Pakistan’s missing citizens

July 23, 2008

April 2008 file photo of the family of a missing man near QuettaIn a country facing the triple challenges of economic crisis, political instability and Islamist militancy, the impact on individuals can be easy to overlook. Amnesty International has tried to redress part of this by publishing a report about the hundreds of people it says have disappeared in Pakistan as a result of counter-terrorism measures.

It urges the coalition government elected in February to act immediately to resolve all cases of enforced disappearance. “We don’t know if those subjected to enforced disappearances are guilty or innocent, but it is their fundamental right to be charged and tried properly in a court of law,” says Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

The report also calls on other governments, particularly the United States, “to ensure that they are not complicit in, contributing to, or tolerating the practice of enforced disappearances. Many people who have been secretly held in detention centres in Pakistan say they were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agencies but also by foreign intelligence agents.”

So is the report enough to prod the government into action?

The Guardian quotes Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, as saying: ”The missing persons issue is high on the agenda. In fact when I called on the prime minister a few days ago … he mentioned this issue as well.” Babar added that the interior ministry had been “tasked to call a meeting of the [intelligence] agencies and sort it out”.

But it also quotes Amina Janjua, whose husband Masood disappeared three years ago, as saying that the government “talk a lot, but that is not enough.”


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