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The families of many of the disappeared allege that they are in the illegal custody of the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, having been picked up on suspicion of terrorism or as prey for political victimisation.
On Monday, the Supreme Court was informed by Additional Attorney General K.K. Agha that a three-member judicial commission, headed by a former SC judge, had started work on the cases of missing persons. He added that the interior ministry had already issued a notification about the appointment of the commission's members.
While this is laudable, the success of any government promise to follow up on cases of the missing persons, and that of any commission constituted to look into the matter, must be judged firstly by the usefulness of the information gleaned, and secondly by the number of missing persons who have actually been located.
The issue of Pakistan's ‘missing persons' - a general euphemism that may hide much - is not a new one. The SC has been hearing cases in this regard since 2005. The issue of missing persons has also been taken up by several national and international human rights bodies and has received extensive press coverage. Yet, as the additional attorney general was forced to concede before the SC bench on Monday, no missing person has been traced in recent months. The reason for this, he said, was the lack of information. It is hoped that the recently constituted judicial commission will turn its attention to this defect on a priority basis.
The families of many of the disappeared allege that they are in the illegal custody of the intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, having been picked up on suspicion of terrorism or as prey for political victimisation. This has become an especially explosive issue especially in Balochistan. It is vital that all the missing persons be traced. If any are found to be in the custody of security agencies, without having been produced in a court of law or charged, it would mean a gross violation of constitutional rights.