Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: The woman who spearheaded the cause of the disappeared in Pakistan on Wednesday contested President Pervez Musharraf's claim that the Government was not linked to the disappearances.

Gen. Musharraf told a public meeting in Rawalpindi on Tuesday that most of the missing persons had in fact been lured away to join jihadi groups, and that it was "sheer propaganda" to say that the intelligence agencies were behind their disappearances.

Human rights organisations have alleged that the disappeared were picked up illegally by the Government on suspicion of having links with the Al-Qaeda, and that some were even "sold" to the United States in return for bounty money from the CIA.

Court action

Amna Masood, whose husband Masood Janjua has been missing since 2005, Gen. Musharraf's claim was "absurd" and that "nobody believes his version".

Acting on a petition Ms. Masood filed jointly with families of other missing persons, the Supreme Court issued a stern order to the Government in December last, asking it to trace 43 "disappeared" men. The Government has since managed to track down all but 10 of them and reunite them with their families. The "returned" have narrated to reporters as well as in separate written affidavits to the court that they were picked up and detained by intelligence agencies in unknown locations.

Most said they were left off at bus stops or on a highway after being suddenly informed by their captors that they were being released as there were no charges against them. Even accepting the argument that these persons had joined jihadi groups, it was the state's responsibility to track them down, Ms. Masood told The Hindu.