The Pakistan Government on May 30 has set up a committee to formulate a policy to deal with the issue of enforced disappearances in the country after a high court asked heads of successive governments to explain how such a festering issue had become a “state policy”. The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on May 29 directed the federal government to serve notices on former President, retired General Pervez Musharraf, and all successive chief executives, including Imran Khan and Shehbaz Sharif, for following an “undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances”.
Following the high court’s directives, the government has set up a seven-member committee headed by the Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, according to a notification by the Interior Ministry.
The panel consists of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah, Minister for Power Alleviation Shazia Marri, Minister for Communications Asad Mahmood, Minister for Defence Production Muhammad Israr Tareen, Minister for Maritime Affairs Faisal Ali Subzwari, and Minister for Science and Technology Agha Hassan Baloch.
The report of the committee will be presented to the cabinet for further deliberations.
“The Interior Ministry shall provide secretarial support to the committee,” it said.
The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, in a 15-page order, said, “Retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf and all other successor chief executives i.e. the former Prime Ministers, including the incumbent holder of the office shall submit their respective affidavits explaining why the court may not order proceedings against them for alleged subversion of the Constitution in the context of undeclared tacit approval of the policy regarding enforced disappearances and thus putting national security at risk by allowing the involvement of law enforcement agencies, particularly the armed forces.” “Pervez Musharraf has candidly conceded in his autobiography In the Line of Fire that ‘enforced disappearances’ was an undeclared policy of the state.”
The judge pointed out that the onus was on each chief executive to “rebut the presumption and to explain why they may not be tried for the offence of high treason”.
The court issued the orders in a case related to the disappearance of journalist Mudassar Naro and five others after their petitions were fixed for final arguments, but the federal government requested an adjournment.
The issue of forced disappearances of activists and political workers, especially in the restive province of Balochistan and in Karachi, had gained considerable attention when Mr. Musharraf was at the helm.
Every government since then has made commitments to weed out this festering issue, but very little has been done about it despite eliciting global condemnation.
Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission had expressed alarm at the rising cases of enforced disappearances in Balochistan and other parts of the country, after a post-graduate student from a university in Islamabad had gone missing in February this year.