Senate committee to question recovered missing persons on who abducted them

The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights on Thursday decided to summon recovered missing persons for an in-camera session to ask them directly who they had been picked up by.

The committee also decided that once the victims have recorded their statements, representatives of the apex intelligence agencies ─ Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau ─ will be summoned before the committee and asked to explain their actions.

Briefing the committee during today’s session, the additional interior secretary of Balochistan said that there are currently 136 people missing in the province. The secretary said that 120 people on the list have criminal records.

He added that bodies of 27 people have so far been found, while 104 people have been recovered alive. He added that attempts were being made to gather information on those who had returned home but had not been willing to record statements on the matter.

He added that some of the names on the list of missing persons were incorrect and, therefore, had been removed by the head of the Commission on Enforced Disappearances.

“We do not know who is behind the enforced disappearances,” the secretary said. “In one or two cases, the relatives of the missing persons have blamed the agencies.”

Senator Nasreen Jalil, who was presiding over the committee’s session today, said that recovered missing persons should be called in and asked who picked them up. She said the committee could then call members of agencies and present the facts before them, and tell them that “this practice must now end”.

Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “We all know who is picking them up but we don’t make that information public.”

Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini demanded that the ISI, MI and IB be summoned in relation to the matter of enforced disappearances.

“Whoever is picking up these people is stronger than state institutions,” Senator Babar said, demanding that the missing persons commission be dissolved and replaced with a new one.

“This matter is bringing disrepute to the country,” the committee agreed.

According to the Inquiry Commission on Enforced Disappearances, 728 Pakistanis were added to the ‘missing persons’ list in 2016 ─ the highest number in at least six years ─ bringing the total to 1,219.

Disappearances of social activists have continued unabated in 2017, with five high-profile abductions of social media activists triggering nationwide protests earlier this year.

While four of them were later returned, Syed Samar Abbas, president of the Civil Progressive Alliance Pakistan, remains missing.

More recently, Zeenat Shahzadi, a journalists pursuing the case of a missing Indian citizen in Pakistan, was reported to have returned after remaining missing since 2015.

Although news of her return was confirmed by the former head of the Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances and her mother a few weeks ago, the current whereabouts of Shahzadi and her family are unknown.

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