Only one-third of 8,500 missing people have returned: report – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Of the 8,463 citizens missing since March 2011, only 3,284 have returned home, revealed a report submitted by the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday.

The report was submitted by the commission’s registrar in a case filed by the heirs of missing persons.

The commission — set up in 2011 to trace the missing persons and fix responsibility on the individuals or organizations responsible — disclosed that the institutions concerned did not produce detainees in 550 cases despite the issuance of production orders.

During the nearly eleven years from March 2011 to Feb 28, 2022, the commission received 8,463 complaints about enforced disappearances, the report said. Of these cases, it has disposed of 6,214 cases, whereas 2,249 are still under investigation.

IHC chief justice says commission on enforced disappearances merely playing post office’s role

The report said 3,284 missing people have been traced and returned home.

Besides, 228 people “reported to be dead in encounters, etc.” and the “concerned police lodged FIRs on behalf of the state and law takes its own course”.

Also, 946 people were “reported to be confined in internment centres under Action (in Aid of Civil Powers) Regulations, 2011. Periodic meetings of internees with families are arranged by concerned quarters”, it said, adding that 584 people were reported to have been confined in jails as under trial prisoners on terrorism and criminal charges.

The report noted that 1,178 cases had been found as “not of enforced disappearances” after thorough investigation because in these cases “missing persons have either gone on their own” or these cases related to “kidnapping for ransom or personal enmity”.

The report said major reasons for a growing number of missing people between 2007 and 2009 were a military operation against the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), successive drone attacks in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and illegal crossing of the Afghan border by some people to participate in the war against the United States.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that initial evidence suggested the commission had failed to perform its responsibility since the report indicated that it was assuming the role of a mere post office.

The court observed that the commission’s objective was to give advice to the federal government to counter the menace of enforced disappearances. However, the commission had not forwarded any proposal since its inception in 2011, Justice Minallah said.

He remarked that the commission had taken no action against any person responsible for enforced disappearances.

The petitioners’ lawyer said the victims’ families were facing social and financial hardships.

Advocate Raja Mushtaq informed the court about his two sons who had gone missing in 2016 from outside of the Islamic International University Islamabad. The commission had issued production orders of his sons his but to no avail.

Advocate Inamur Rahim told the court that the commission’s chairman had power equivalent to a high court judge, but he did not exercise this power even to execute the production orders.

The court appointed senior lawyer Faisal Sadique as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case and adjourned the hearing until April 1.

Justice Minallah directed the commission to submit the report of retired Justice Kamal Mansoor Alam regarding the missing persons by the next hearing.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2022