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"Of particular note is the disappearance of over 168 children and 148 women, according to the non-profit Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (V.B.M.P.),"
WASHINGTON, DC: The Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Center (A.L.R.C.) has called upon Islamabad to invite the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to conduct a country visit.
In a written submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council ahead of the 15th session in September, the A.L.R.C.said Pakistan is beset by grave and widespread human rights violations by various State-agencies and institutions, notably by the notorious Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and the military.
"Of particular note is the disappearance of over 168 children and 148 women, according to the non-profit Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (V.B.M.P.)," the A.L.R.C. reported. The A.L.R.C. is a sister organization of the premier Asian Human Rights Commission an independent regional non-governmental organization holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
The women and children have reportedly been disappeared by the Pakistani intelligence agencies for interrogation over alleged links to Balochi separatists and militant groups. The Provincial Interior Ministry of Balochistan issued a list of 992 missing persons on December 10, 2009, as part of reconciliation efforts by the federal government.
Islamabad is refusing visa to any international team to visit Pakistan to investigate the cases, Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances told this writer recently in Washington DC
According to the Quetta-based V.B.M.P., which is now affiliated with theI Sweden-based International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, the highest number of disappearances, 292, were reported in 2006 and in 2008 the civilian government took power by saying "sorry"to Balochistan, but the disappearances still continued in the restive territory which the Baloch call Occupied Balochistan.
In 2008, the number of disappearances were 97, but the figures spiked to 142 in 2009, according to the V.B.M.P.
Nasrullah Baloch, chairman of the V.B.M.P. said 60 cases of enforced disappearances have been recorded by the V.B.M.P. until the end of August.
"There are quite a few bodies in the Qiuetta mortuary whose identities have not been verified," Nasrullah Baloch said on phone from Quetta. "Many cases are never brought to the notice of the human rights organizations or the media by the victim families as they think this will jeopardize the recovery of their loved ones," he added.
The A.L.R.C. welcomed the recent General Comment on the Right to the Truth in Relation to Enforced Disappearances issued by the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), Geneva.
"The right to the truth is a key component of all efforts to address human rights violations, and has particular relevance concerning the issues of forced disappearances and missing persons. The scale of the problem of missing persons in Pakistan and the overwhelming lack of information about the fate of these persons, let alone any credible investigations or accountability, means that a key first step that needs to be taken by the Pakistani authorities is to fulfill the right to the truth for missing persons. This comprises the right to know about the progress and results of an investigation, the fate or the whereabouts of the disappeared persons, the circumstances of the disappearances, and the identity of the perpetrator(s).
The WGIED recalled that States have an obligation to investigate cases of enforced disappearance and let any interested person know the concrete steps taken to clarify the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons, and has stated that "the right of the relatives to know the truth of the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared persons is an absolute right, not subject to any limitation or derogation..." and that "...No legitimate aim, or exceptional circumstances, may be invoked by the State to restrict this right."
In Pakistan's case, while the country ranks amongst the world's worst perpetrators of forced disappearance as a result of domestic and international conflicts, the government is not taking any credible steps to address any facets of this grave problem, the A.L.R.C. noted.
In Balochistan alone, over 4000 persons are reportedly missing and disappearances continue to be perpetrated, notably by paramilitary forces. In Sindh province, over 100 Sindhi nationalists are thought to have been arrested, and remain disappeared but are believed to be being held in military torture cells.
There are hundreds of complaints concerning missing persons before the higher courts, including the Supreme Court of Pakistan, concerning in particular cases of persons that have allegedly been abducted by state intelligence agencies - notably the ISI and military intelligence agencies - and are thought to be being held in various torture cells for many months, accused of working against Pakistan, with the Indian state intelligence agencies.
Islamabad formed a judicial commission to probe cases of disappearances, which comprises one judge from the Supreme Court as its head and two retired high court judges. It began working in June 2010, with a mandate to operate for three months, but it has only been considering 17 cases of disappearances, despite the large number of cases reported in the country.
Furthermore, the judicial commission has reportedly never requested explanations from the State intelligence agencies concerning allegations of disappearances, and is therefore ineffectual.
The Chief Minister of Balochistan, the pot-smoking Nawab Aslam Raisani, said on January 13, 2010, that there were 999 people officially missing in Balochistan.