Human rights group Amnesty International released a new briefing document detailing the effect of extrajudicial abductions on the family members of the missing persons. The group asked the Pakistani authorities to end the use of enforced disappearances as a tool of state policy.
The brief, titled “Living Ghosts”, was released on Monday and involved interviews of ten family members of people “whose fate remains unknown after they were abducted by Pakistan’s security services.” The researchers spoke to the victims of enforced disappearances who have been now released.
“Enforced disappearance is a cruel practice that has caused indelible pain to hundreds of families in Pakistan over the past two decades”, Rehab Mahamoor, Amnesty’s acting South Asia researcher. He asked the authorities to release the missing persons or inform the family members about their condition. He also asked the authorities to prosecute the people behind these disappearances.
“On top of the untold anguish of losing a loved one and having no idea of their whereabouts or safety, families endure other long-term effects, including ill health and financial problems.”
The group said that under the pretext of America’s “war on terrorism”, Amnesty said that the Pakistani authorities have abducted numerous individuals throughout the country without any evidence or justification. The authorities had confirmed several weeks later that the individuals were detained on charges of treasons, the group said.
Several international and local human rights groups have documented the plight of the victims of enforced disappearances and their family members in Pakistan, primarily in Balochistan. Pakistan formed a commission in 2011 to investigate the enforced disappearances, but the commission has been chastised for its failure to address the rights crisis gripping the country.
Pakistan’s lower house also passed a bill earlier this month that, for the first time in the history of the country, criminalized enforced disappearances. The bill defined the act as an “illegal and without lawful authority arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by an agent of the State or by person or group of persons acting with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of the State.”
The bill is still pending in the upper house of Pakistan and is still pending to officially become law. A controversial section of the bill also criminalizes “false allegations” of enforced disappearances, subject to five-year imprisonment and a stupendous fine of 100,000 rupees.
Amnesty International also pinpointed this section of the bill in the briefing paper. “These amendments provide loopholes for authorities to continue forcibly disappearing people and would discourage families of victims from reporting cases of disappearance”, it said. Amnesty said that the bill is “deeply flawed and does not meet the standards of international human rights law.”
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