End enforced disappearances in Pakistan

"For us relief is only when our loved one is safe and sound standing freed before us. [...] I believe that my husband Masood is held only three kilometres from my home, yet he continues to suffer unknown ill-treatment and we, his wife, his children and his very old parents cannot even see him. They [the government] must act now to bring them back immediately."
 - Amina Masood Janjua, July 2008

The last time Amina Masood Janjua saw her husband, Masood Janjua, was on 30 July 2005 when he left home to meet his friend Faisal Faraz. It is believed that the Pakistani security forces apprehended both men that day while on a bus journey to another city and that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s intelligence agency, has been holding them in secret without charge or trial. The agency has repeatedly denied any knowledge of their whereabouts despite eyewitness testimony as to their detention.

Masood Janjua and Faisal Faraz are among hundreds, if not thousands, of victims of enforced disappearance in Pakistan, including children as young as nine and ten years old. Many of them were detained after the attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001, their detentions justified in the name of the US-led “war on terror”. The practice, rare before 2001, then spread to activists involved in pushing for greater ethnic or regional rights, including Baloch and Sindhis.

Despite undeniable evidence, the former government of President Pervez Musharraf consistently denied subjecting anyone to enforced disappearances. 

In its report, Denying the undeniable, enforced disappearances in Pakistan, Amnesty International confronted the Pakistani authorities with evidence of how government officials obstructed attempts to trace those who have disappeared, using official court records and affidavits of victims and witnesses of enforced disappearances.

Pakistan’s civilian government in April 2008 pledged to end the policy of denial and to investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and hold those responsible to account.

In April 2008, former Law Minister, Farooq Naik stated that the government was collecting details on of disappeared persons and promised that all would be released.  In May 2008, the Interior Ministry set up another committee to investigate the fate of all persons subjected to enforced disappearances, comprising representatives of the Ministry, parliamentarians and of the families of the disappeared.

To date the government has not revealed the findings of its investigations or any actions it has taken to resolve all enforced disappearance cases.

On 16 March 2009, through an executive order by President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani reinstated Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice and other judges deposed during the November 2007 state of emergency. Prior to his dismissal, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had taken a tough stance on the cases of enforced disappearances and found against the government in several rulings.  Since his reinstatement, the Supreme Court in November 2009 resumed hearings of disappearance cases. This is a much welcomed step, but the Pakistan government must demonstrate political will to trace the disappeared.

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