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This brief has been drawn mainly from an IPS session held on December 2, 2016 to introduce a report prepared

by the Defence of Human Rights (DHR), titled as Grief Untold. Among those who spoke on this occasion were
Justice (Retired) Javed Iqbal, Head of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearance (CoIoED), Akram Zaki,
former Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan, Dr. Asma Humayun, consultant psychiatrist,
Shehzad Akbar, renowned human rights lawyer, Asad Umar, Member National Assembly Pakistan, Amina Masood
Janjua, Chairperson DHR, and Khalid Rahman, Director General Institute of Policy Studies, Islamabad.

The context and the phenomenon readjustments in its domestic and international
Pakistan was not directly or even indirectly involved in policies. Things shaped up in a way that caused
what had happened in the United States of America on formulation of extremist groups locally. To address
September 11, 2001. Still, it had to pay a very heavy and control these violent groups and their sadistic
price in aftermath of this attack. The US retaliation in activities, the security agencies resorted to certain
Afghanistan negatively affected Pakistan in numerous stern measures, including arrests in contravention of
ways. Each of these various forms of human, financial, law. The individuals alleged to be so detained became
and other impacts ask for distinct focus. However, this known as missing persons.
brief glances into only one of them: the phenomenon
Along with those who might have something to do
of forced disappearances with a particular look into
with post 9/11 war on terror scenario, instances,
the plight that forced disappearances bring for the
where enforced disappearances are alleged, also
include cases from Balochistan, where certain groups
At the outset, one should admit that war is are undertaking anti-state activities in the name of
something that destroys much more than it aims at. liberation of Balochistan with a suspected
Whatever be the laws in place, human rights are involvement of regional and global players. Enforced
almost always a casualty in war. Things get worse disappearances on political grounds is however not
when the parties fighting each other are not clearly known as a major occurrence in Pakistan except those
distinct1 to one another, rather numerous players are alleged recently by Muttahida Qaumi Movement
clandestinely involved in frequent yet sporadic violent (MQM) in Karachi, which itself is considered as a
activities. political move.2
In the wake of war in Afghanistan that featured the Campaigning on figures
characteristics of irregular warfare coupled with Precise number of missing persons in Pakistan remains
policies adopted by foreign forces in Afghanistan and shrouded in exaggerations and understatements from
the region at large, Pakistan had to make major 2400 to over 25000.3 On one hand, the campaigners

for disappeared persons tend to overstate the figure where to look for them and whom to ask. In many
to seek attention, gather support and at times to cases, the missing person is the primary earner or sole
malign the State, while on other hand, such earner of the family and his sudden absence coupled
exaggerations actually backfire and government with the struggle to find him out brings families to
officials attempt at downplaying the whole severe financial crisis as well.
phenomenon. For instance, there are reasons to
Psychosocial impact, particularly on children and
believe that number of such cases in Balochistan or
female family members of the missing person, should
those related to a political party is deliberately
perhaps be the most immediate concern of the
exaggerated for political reasons.4 Significantly, the
government as well as society. The pain that these
alleged victims of enforced disappearance in
persons are enduring is an ongoing suffering. While
Balochistan and Karachi gather more support from
waiting for their loved ones or even for a news about
rights activists locally and internationally than those
them good or bad the distressing uncertainty
who are believed to have gone missing in possible
engulfs the whole family. Having to interact with and
connection with the war on terror.5 So, while the plight
facing non-supportive behaviors and reactions of
of the families of all kinds of missing persons is not
police, security officials and others, remaining in a
different, even this humanitarian issue is not without
constant state of alertness and excruciating shifts
political ambitions and polarization.
between hope and despair jointly create a trauma that
Nevertheless, while there are instances of wrongly ruins the personality and leaves a person broken from
attributing the prolonged absence of certain within. To make things worse, the stigmatization in the
individuals to security agencies, there actually are society causes isolation. Uncertainty that reigns the
many instances where the apprehensions of a person lives leaves no room for future aspirations, ambitions
having been picked up by state agencies have to be or targets. The distress or trauma may lead to mental
believed. health problems and even physical disorders.6
Plight of the families In almost all cases where a person goes missing, the
Though, establishing the exact number of missing family becomes under severe financial crisis. Mainly
persons is extremely important, it is also equally because the missing person is usually the one who
important to recognize the difficulties they are facing wins bread for the rest in his family and also because
and consider ways for some interim relief without, of the family members have to enter into a tiring,
course, compromising a comprehensive and depressing and resource consuming struggle to look
sustainable solution to the problem. In this regard, it for the missing person. In the event of sudden
should be realized that while the apprehended person unforeseen absence of an earning member of family,
may have been going through some testing times in women generally take the dual role of earning as well
custody beyond the sight of society and most of as nurturing the family. True, the relatives and
government functionaries, the plight of their families neighbors lend a helping hand in most cases7 but this
is fairly visible and this is where government and understandably is limited in many respects.
society need to pay immediate attention.
Another aspect of the financial problems that such
Having someone in the category of missing persons is families have to face relates to family property and
not like having someone arrested by police. Families of assets. Since family property, movable and immovable
missing persons do not know the apprehending assets are commonly registered in the name of and
agency, the accusation, whereabouts and even operated by the male members of the family; their
whether such person is still alive or not. This is a absence means deprivation of families from such
trauma like none other. Families who lose their sons, benefits too. Property rights and social security are
brothers, husbands and fathers, in such a situation, transferable to wives only on death of their spouses
live in constant misery, fear, uncertainty and and there is no legal recognition of a persons
depression. To make things worse, they do not know disappearance. Consequently, bank accounts cannot

be operated, money cannot be withdrawn and people who are impacted by enforced
property rights cannot be availed to the fullest. disappearance. Justice Kamal Mansoor Report had
also recommended monetary compensation to the
Bringing things to normalcy
victim and/or his family and had outlined a workable
One of the greatest achievements of human societies
formula and mechanism for determination and
is formulation of their respective codes of life in the
payment of such compensation.
form of law. Real utility of law is to prevent arbitrary
use of power and safeguarding the rights and The role and significance of Commission on Inquiry of
freedoms of individuals. There are several rights that a Enforced Disappearance (CoIoED) cannot be ignored
person enjoys according to the legal system of in the whole scenario. It has indeed been serving as a
Pakistan when he is taken into custody by law beacon of hope and actively bring the missing
enforcing agencies.8 Taking individuals into custody individuals to scene. In most cases, CoIoED is the only
without following the due course defeats the purpose forum that the family members of the missing persons
of the law, violates human dignity and resembles can approach. The Commission has been able to
autocracy. This arbitrary act does not merely deprive a recover 2,416 persons during past 5 years, whereas
person from rights and liberty but also delivers a 1,276 cases are currently pending before it.15
message of insecurity and uncertainty through society.
Nevertheless, while establishment of a Commission
The terrorist activities claimed thousands of lives in and its partial achievement in bringing back some
Pakistan require some out of the box measures. One individuals should be acknowledged, this is not a
such measure came late, i.e. in 2014 in the form of solution. The ultimate solution would be to avoid any
twenty-first constitutional amendment9 and such situations where state agencies might act against
Protection of Pakistan Act (PoPA).10 In fact, the the law. Moreover, CoIoED should be strengthened in
commission on missing persons had issued a report in terms of authority, scope and resources. Families that
January 2011, only nine months after its constitution are pursuing cases at CoIoED should be given monthly
in March 2010. This report, commonly referred as stipend to attend the proceedings and to meet their
Justice Kamal Mansoor Report after the name of its basic needs. Government shall have to work out some
chairperson, had recommended legislation for specific legal options to facilitate women and family members
powers of arrest and detention to Army and law of the disappeared persons to allow them using the
enforcing agencies for limited period to deal with financial resources of the family.
special circumstances.11 In the same spirit, PoPA
In essence, there are following areas of attention
empowered armed forces and civil armed forces along
where government needs to take lead to do away with
with police to take certain actions in reaction to or in
the phenomenon once for all.
order to prevent serious crimes. Yet, at the same time,
it had devised a mechanism12 for preserving rights of o Taking the problem as a serious human rights issue
the detained and ensuring a fair trial through judicial that has implications for the rule of law, the
oversight. Lawyers and other individuals involved with constitutionally guaranteed right of protection of
such cases however believe that even these special law, freedoms of an individual and vital interests
provisions empowering the security and law enforcing of all those who are connected with him in any
agencies beyond normal procedures are not being way. It needs to be recognized that the practice
adhered to.13 This needs to be genuinely addressed. sends a very negative image of Pakistan worldwide
and introduces the country as a place where even
It goes without saying that the one-step cure for most
the government prefers to avoid law. Avoiding
of these problems is removing the cause of these
such instances is also vital for maintaining law and
sufferings by letting the families know about their
order and maintaining security in the country, as
loved ones and following the legal course for
aggrieved souls who have no remedy for their
investigation and trial. Still, counseling and
psychosocial services must be made available to all the

grievances are more likely to show tendency authority and force. In fact, during current times,
towards crime and violence. certain policies, measures and initiatives by
o Collecting complete information about all persons various governments have severely damaged
who are alleged to have gone missing and looking dignity and freedoms and have therefore caused
for each of them. Admittedly, not all of them anger and violent resentment. It would therefore
would have been in custody of state agencies, and be pertinent to indicate that the phenomenon of
many might have hidden themselves for range of missing persons, enforced or involuntary
reasons but it ultimately is the responsibility of the disappearance is neither a recent phenomenon
state to take care of grievances of the family nor it is confined to any one or few countries.16
members. It is imperative on police to register Governments throughout the world need to
every complaint regarding disappearances and resolve to abide by rule of law and justice.
make every effort to find out the person someone o While some of the recommendations of the
is looking for. This will also help the Government commission on missing persons may have been
reaching a genuine figure of missing persons and implemented, partially or fully, overtime, it is
collecting their relevant details. important to give effect to other
o Ensuring that all such detentions are brought to recommendations of the 2011 and subsequent
the scene for expeditious provision of justice is reports of the commission.17
guaranteed in all cases of alleged disappearances o Apart from the government, social sector should
in CoIoED and other courts. play its role in providing legal as well as
o Taking care of basic needs of the families of the psychological support to the affected families. The
missing persons and ensuring that they do not feel government should also guarantee necessities of
forgotten, dishonored and ruined. life for such families, particularly health and
Recommendations of the commission that has education.
been dealing with aggrieved families must be
seriously addressed by all concerned authorities.
o Working domestically and internationally to
minimize the injustices and arbitrary uses of

Prepared by Syed Nadeem Farhat & Tauqeer Hussain | For queries: Tauqeer Hussain, Asst. Research Coordinator,


Article 13 of the First Geneva Convention suggests that members of organized resistance movements engaged in a conflict
too like armed forces are expected to have unified command, distinctive and visible sign, openly carried arms and respect
for laws and customs of war.
Head of CoIoED Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal had narrated at IPS that when MQM preferred to file petitions with the UN
Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances instead of first approaching CoIoED regarding alleged forced
disappearance of 90 of their political workers, he, on receiving a letter from UN working Group, had personally approached
MQM leadership and stayed in Karachi until he managed to find out and recover around 80 of such individuals.
International Commission of Jurists, Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan: UN Statement, September 15, 2016, (accessed December 19, 2016); Defence of Human
Rights, Grief Untold, Rawalpindi, November 2016, p. 4.
In fact, it was highlighted in the IPS session that the campaigners for the alleged missing persons from Balochistan had been
approached by the Commission of Inquiry on enforced Disappearances (CoIoED) but they failed to produce any list of names
of particulars that could help the Commission.
Member of National Assembly from Islamabad, Asad Omar had shared this thought during IPS session. He was apprehensive
of human rights groups and thought that their agenda is dictated or at least inspired by western preferences.
Psychological effects of enforced disappearances on family members of missing person were discussed at some length by
Dr. Asma Humayun at IPS session.
Defence of Human Rights, Grief Untold, p. 38 & 46
The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees several rights to a detainee including protection of law, right to information about
the reasons of arrest, right to counsel, judicial review or supervision of the detention, right to fair trial and due process of
law, protection against retrospective punishment, protection against double punishment and self-incrimination, safeguard
to privacy, safeguard from torture etc.
The Constitution (Twenty-First Amendment) Act, 2015 (Act I of 2015), January 7, 2015, (accessed December 20, 2016)
The Pakistan Protection Act, 2014 (Act X of 2014), July 14, 2014, (accessed December 20, 2016)
Report of the commission headed by justice (R) Kamal Mansoor was not made public. Reference to it was made by Justice
Javed Iqbal at IPS session.
Section 5 of the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014 states about the remand of the arrested person by the judicial authority
and section 6 provides about the mechanism of preventive detention of the accused with the safeguards guaranteed by
article 10 of the Constitution.
Defence of Human Rights, Grief Untold, p. 4; Similar views were also expressed by Shehzad Akbar, advocate Supreme Court
of Pakistan in the IPS session.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Standard 9, International consensus on principles and minimum
standards for psychosocial work in search process and forensic investigation in cases of enforced disappearance, arbitrary or
extrajudicial executions, March 2011, (accessed December 20, 2016).
Justice (Retired) Javed Iqbal in IPS session on 2nd December 2016
The UN Commission on Human Rights had established the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in
1980. Subsequent efforts on international level include the 1992 Declaration against Enforced Disappearances and 2006
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. These and other international
initiatives however do not seem to have brought desired results. In fact, the 2016 report of the Working Group on Enforced
or Involuntary Disappearances narrates that the number of cases under active consideration of the Working Group stands at
44,159 in a total of 91 States. See: UN general Assembly, Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary
Disappearances, July 28, 2016, (Accessed December
19, 2016)
The Commission of Inquiry on enforced Disappearances (CoIoED) submits its reports to the Federal Government
periodically but they are kept classified and are not accessible publically.