Pakistan Army made it public on Friday that a special cell on missing persons has been established at the General Headquarters (GHQ) which is specifically dealing with the matter of ‘enforced and involuntarily disappearances’.
According to a press release by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Asif Ghafoor, met with Defence of Human Rights chairperson Amina Masood Janjua. General Ghafoor disclosed that a special assistance cell was working at the GHQ to facilitate the process regarding missing persons.
Met Amina Masood Janjua. Issue of missing persons discussed. State is with them to facilitate and address the issue. COAS has constituted a spec cell at GHQ for assisting the process. Our hearts go with the families of missing persons being Pakistanis. (1of2). pic.twitter.com/O5nI4hJ5Kc
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) July 5, 2019
The DG ISPR also told Ms Janjua said that the armed forces sympathized with families of missing persons, but all cases of enforced disappearances could not be attributed to the state agencies. “Those with state are under legal process,” he added.
Ms. Janjua thanked the DG ISPR for his assurance to serve the aggrieved families with justice.
— Amina Masood Janjua (@AminaMJanjua) July 5, 2019
However, the DG ISPR also said that the matter of missing person is often exaggerated. There have been some people who joined the TTP against the Pakistan army and have been killed during the War on Terror, he explained.
“More so, there are many who got killed fighting as part of TTP against the state of Pakistan. Such individuals are also to be accounted somewhere while listing the missing persons,” he maintained.
The distinction between genuinely missing persons and those who stood up against the state, terrorists, is important to deal with the matter on humanitarian grounds.
Federal Minster for Human Rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari, said in a tweeted that it was a moment of pleasure to see Ms. Janjua meeting the DG ISPR.
Glad to see @AminaMJanjua having a meeting with DG ISPR. Have been engaging with all stakeholders on Enforced Disappearances for months now and also sent bill on issue to Law Ministry. Hopefully we will finally achieve positive results on this terrible torment for families.
— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) July 5, 2019
The current government is vocal on the issue of missing persons and has repeatedly ensured the nation that it shall address the matter. When he was in opposition, Prime Minster Imran Khan had said that no person shall go missing even if guilty of high treason. Citizens would only be convicted after due process of law, he maintained. Similarly, Dr. Shireen Mazari has also said more than once that she stands by the families of missing persons.
— PTI (@PTIofficial) August 30, 2018
Dr. Mazari also said that “We will amend the law by including enforced disappearance as criminal offense in the criminal penal code. We are totally democratic state and incidents of disappearing the persons without legal obligation is against the constitution and also against the democratic norms.”
Furthermore, it is important to note that several missing persons have returned back to their homes in the last few days. According to reports, Mehran Khyiazai, Abdul Karim Musazai from Saindak, Haji Ghulam Dastagir Mohammad Hasni from Dalbandin, Kabir Ahmed and Mohammad Ewaz Killi from Qadirabad Noshki, Abdul Samad Langove and Mohammad Ibrahim Kalat, Khalid Naveed from Mashkay and Khan Mohammad Bugti Kashangi from Noshki have safely returned to their families.
Analysts believe that the matter of the enforced disappearance is no longer a question of human rights rather it has turned to be a political battle. Some western-funded NGOs and civil society members’ unnecessarily drag army into the matter and worsen the situation. As DG ISPR has said that many those treated as missing persons had been part of TTP, a violent group funded by India’s spy agency RAW and using religion against Pakistan, and killed during the war on terror. The distinction between genuinely missing persons and those who stood up against the state, terrorists, is important to deal with the matter on humanitarian grounds.
The meeting with Ms. Janjua is one of the most public indications that the military is finally taking the matter of missing persons towards a solution. The press release is also one of the clearest statement of military’s viewpoint on the issue: that the number of missing persons is inflated by including those who fought in Taliban ranks are being conflated with missing person. The statement also points towards the military’s intent to prevent a humanitarian issue from turning into a political one.
Ms. Janjua who is a leading campaigner for recovery of missing persons, has been struggling to find her husband for 14 years. Her involvement is perhaps the greatest step taken yet to resolve the issue.