LAHORE: A protest was held against enforced disappearances by activists of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and other participants of a seminar at the SAFMA auditorium. Earlier, a huge number of social activists and intellectuals had gathered for a seminar called Citizen Seminar on Human Rights in the Era of Enforced Disappearances.
The participants demanded the recovery of missing persons like Raza Mehmood Khan who went missing under mysterious circumstances on December 2, 2017.
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Doctor Laaal Khan, Farooq Tariq, Irfan Mufti, Dr Peter Jacob, Salima Hashmi, Hina Jalani, Wajahat Masood, Dr Muhammad Waseem, Dr Mubashir Hassan, Ahmad Rasheed, Diep Syeda and IA Rehman spoke on the occasion.
IA Rehman said that whenever a person fell victim to an enforced disappearance, three of their rights were compromised. These included the rights to life, liberty and security. “In all such cases, the state claimed it did not have the person in their custody.” Rehman added the report of a three-member court bench said a report on missing persons should be made public. “It has answers to the question of who picked up these people,” he stressed. The human rights activist also urged the formation of a commission to probe over the death of journalist Saleem Shahzad.
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He said that in case of missing persons, the law did not apply as the state was playing the role of police, investigator and judge. “A public outcry and protest is the way to stop this practice.”
Rehman continued that the situation was getting worse in the case of missing persons as the numbers were increasing with each passing day.
A commission, formed to inquire about missing persons, stated that 1,400 cases were pending with it, but the actual number of people whose whereabouts were unknown remained higher. “Those unidentified persons involved in picking up people would communicate with families of the victims to keep them silent,” he said.
The activist added that in the recent past, Islamic militants, political activists from Balochistan and dissidents from Sindh had been picked up.
“Raza was neither of these. The situation had reached such a level that people would be picked up based on their names. Unidentified men would pick victims and ask them why they had a particular name.”
Diep Syeda, a veteran human rights activist, claimed she had been confined at her office for seven hours on Friday by policemen and officials of other law enforcement agencies because she wanted to have a vigil for late Punjab governor Salman Taseer. She demanded the safe recovery of all missing people including Raza.
Imtiaz Alam said that the issue would not be resolved if people fought individually or in separate groups. “Let’s us many unite to fight the few,” he asserted.
Advocate Salman Raja said activists should have started speaking up over the matter much earlier.
The father of Raza Mehmood also made some emotional remarks on the occasion. The man said he had been suffering ever since his child went missing. He added that even eating or drinking had become difficult as his thoughts raced to whether his son was thirsty or starving. The father said even the thought of swallowing a drop of water or a morsel of food was difficult.
Dr Mehdi Hassan said that retrogressive elements had become powerful and a state of repression had prevailed as progressive voices were being silenced.
“They cannot stop everyone from speaking,” stressed Hina Jilani. “A few people will keep on speaking.”
Other speakers also decried enforced disappearances and demanded an end to authoritative steps.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 7th, 2018.
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Original news : https://tribune.com.pk/story/1602593/1-whereabouts-unknown-hrcp-decries-never-ending-saga-missing-persons/