Pak's amendment bill on enforced disappearances inadequate to curb menace, says opposition leader

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Representative Image
Representative Image

Islamabad [Pakistan], June 26 (ANI): Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) secretary-general Farhatullah Babar has said that the recent bill introduced by the Imran Khan-led government to curb the practice of enforced disappearances would not end the menace as it requires further deliberation and amendment.

In a statement on Thursday, the PPP secretary-general cautioned against rushing through the bill and called for inviting all stakeholders to the relevant standing committee of the National Assembly or holding public hearings, reported Dawn.

He also said that over the chaos on the legislation for Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), an amendment bill introduced by the interior minister escaped public attention and scrutiny.

According to Babar, the amendment bill sought to amend some provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), adding that it was quickly referred to the relevant committee without any discussion.

Enforced disappearances must be treated as a separate autonomous crime and a separate legal mechanism was needed for taking up complaints, holding perpetrators accountable and providing for compensation to the aggrieved families, he mentioned.

"A holistic approach is needed. Legislation needs to be made to determine the mandate of the ISI, provide guarantees that anyone deprived of liberty is kept at a fully authorised place of detention, provide protection to victims, their families and witnesses and also compensation to them," Babar said.

"Ratification of the international convention for the protection of all persons against enforced disappearances should also form part of the new legal architecture to address the issue," he further suggested.

The opposition leader also said that any legislation must be piloted by the human rights ministry instead of law enforcing ministry because of fundamental differences in their outlooks and approaches to the issue.

Last month, in its first-ever "Joint Communication" from the UN Special Rapporteurs, eight different UN human rights bodies have formally inquired about the enforced disappearances of people in Pakistan from Prime Minister Imran Khan's government, putting a seal on Pakistan's indictment on the issue.

"...we would like to bring to the attention of your Excellency's Government information we have received concerning what appears to be a pattern of steady increase in the number of enforced disappearances of persons belonging to minorities, especially Sindhi minorities, of political activists, journalists and human rights defenders, in the province of Sindh, Pakistan," the communication read.

"In relation with these practices, there appears to be an apparent pattern of impunity, resulting from the persistent lack of effective and prompt investigations and the failure to bring perpetrators to justice," it added.

As in preceding years, Pakistan witnessed substantial human rights violations in 2020, from forced conversions of religious minorities and crimes against women to enforced disappearances and curbs on freedom of expression, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said in its annual report last month.

On the issue of enforced disappearances, the report said, "Since the inception of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has topped the list in terms of numbers of missing persons. At end-December 2020, the total number of cases registered in the province stood at 2,942."

Enforced disappearances have been a long stain on Pakistan's human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalise the practice, there has been a very slow movement on legislation, while people continue to be forcibly disappeared with impunity.

Enforced disappearance has been used as a tool by the Pakistani state to silence the minority communities. While countless abductees have been killed, many of them are still facing inhuman torture in army secrets cells. (ANI)

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