Pakistan: Reasons behind rejection of the Government's Commission for Missing Persons

Asia Human Rights
August 5, 2016
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

In 2010, a Commission was founded by the Pakistan Government to probe the missing persons' cases and trace those still missing and unaccounted for. On 16 July 2016, this Commission presented its report to the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Then, the head of the body, (retired) Justice Javed Iqbal circulated a statement, in which he blamed Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) for non-cooperation in resolving the challenges in Balochistan.

The VBMP admonishes the allegation of the mentioned Commission, citing falsification. In fact, VBMP conducted meetings with the Commission's officials and offered its full cooperation. The Commission vowed to take action against the perpetrators, in cases where victim families had provided sufficient proof. The Chair of the Commission had said that no authority or institute would be pardoned, regardless of its influence or power, because the Commission was fully mandated to implementing the law in its true spirit.

The evidence was provided, which confirmed involvement of State institutions in the abduction and dumping of mutilated bodies of Baloch political workers in Balochistan. This Commission's attitude toward the missing persons' families, however, was not polite and the Commission has produced no results regarding missing persons in Balochistan. Despite the presence of solid evidence, the Commission has refused to hold the culprits accountable for committing severe human rights abuses in Balochistan.

The following are points outlining the extent of the State's inhumane activities in Balochistan:

1- In 2012, in court, the investigative officer read out Statement-161, and in the meantime the court convicted Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Balochistan head, Mr. Sidique, and issued orders for his arrest. Additionally, on 3 June 2010, Hafiz Hussain Ahmed and a number of other witnesses' statements were recorded, which also implicated Mr. Sidique as the perpetrator. Even then, the Commission avoided enforcing the arrest order and taking any sort of action against him. The enforced disappearance of Ali Asghar Bangulzai by State agencies was confirmed in an on-record report of the Commission. Furthermore, the Commission said in their report that it is essential to determine which State agency has taken Mr. Bangulzai. The information gathered obligated the Commission to take disciplinary action against offenders and secure the safe release of the forcibly disappeared Mr Bangulzai. But without reasonable explanation, his unresolved case was carelessly & callously disposed-off by the Commission from the list of enforced disappeared persons. The Commission offered only absurd remarks, stating that the case does not have anything to do with enforced disappearance at all.

2- In 2007, Mr. Mohd. Iqbal Baloch was disappeared. Several years later, in 2010, the National Crisis Management Cell submitted a report to the Commission advising them that "The Frontier Corps had arrested Mr. Mohd Iqbal Baloch in injured condition. While he was in transit to Quetta he succumbed to his wounds." A Frontier Corps (FC) colonel also verified the arrest of Mr. Baloch, in writing. That document was produced before the court, in a proceeding, and in that it was clearly admitted that Mr. Iqbal Baloch had been arrested in a wounded condition. The same FC officer also signed the mentioned document. Regrettably, despite such blatant evidence in the documents, the courts did not make any progress in the case, the incident was dismissed, and the documents related to the case disappeared. The VBMP repeatedly appealed for provision of a copy of the document, and for re-inclusion of the same in the proceedings, but the court never heeded to this call, and no corrective action was taken against the FC for such an unlawful act.

3- On 3 September 2009, FC personnel, arriving in 3 vehicles, arrested 7 students inside the Balochistan University compound. The arrested students were identified as Chakar Marri, Hidayatullah Bangulzai, and five others. Afterwards, a few of those arrested that day were released. The organization VBMP approached them and convinced them to appear as witnesses in the abduction cases at the Commission. When they appeared in front of the Commission and gave their statements, the Commission and the Frontier Corps behaved as though they were offended. In court, the matter was also argued in detail. All the evidence and ground reality directly implicated the FC, but it was not recognized by the Commission, despite the (Magna Carta) slogan that no one is above the law and the law is effective against all. Successively, the students who appeared before the Commission to record their statements were subjected to abuses by the FC in the form of raids on their respective residences, and they were harassed in various way, as retribution.

4- In the meantime, many mutilated bodies were found dumped. These bodies were identified as those whose cases were proceeding at the Government Commission, and this justice providing body took no measure against the spiteful acts, and impolitely disposed off cases of those slain. One particular example is the discovery of the mutilated remains of Mr. Jalil Reki on 24 November 2011. Another example is that of Sana Sangat Baloch's mutilated body, which was found dumped in Balochistan on 13 February 2012. Both of these cases were registered with the aforementioned Commission. Many similar incidents occurred when the Commission was working on cases. Mutilated bodies of the abductees were continually dumped by State agencies. But the self-claimed mandated body did nothing to halt this series of inhuman atrocities. The evidence was provided and witnesses' statements recorded before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

Additionally, the relatives of missing persons and their organization, the VBMP, appealed to the Commission to stop disposing the cases. Furthermore, the victim families, through VBMP, demanded access to the deceased persons DNA tests and autopsy reports. On the basis of all relevant attained information & evidence, those determined to be wrongdoers must be penalized, it was demanded. Unfortunately, all pleas, recommendation, and suggestions were dismissed, and no action was taken to suspend or prevent these inhuman practices.

5- In June 2012, the head of the Commission (retired) Justice Javed Iqbal was appointed. During his first visit to Balochistan, within three days of proceedings, he concluded a verdict, which was made public through a press conference. By his judgment, State agencies were acquitted of any accountability for the abduction and dumping of mutilated bodies of Baloch political workers, with no logic or judicious reasoning provided. It is inconceivable how this Commission processed thousands of missing persons' cases in only three days time; and also derived a fair decision in this short period. This statement of the Commission manifested the reality of the extent of bias and prejudice in the State judicial system. Therefore, the organization Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) rejected the Commission's conclusion; additionally, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) showed no confidence in the Commission's resolution. On 7 April 2016, both organizations (VBMP & HRCP), expressed concern before the Chief Justice of Pakistan during a proceeding in the Supreme Court regarding the Commission. Apart from this, it must be noted that agency officials, who are accused of involvement in the enforced disappearances and dumping of mutilated bodies in Balochistan, are themselves members of this Government Commission; therefore, it is futile to expect justice from this body.

The salient flaws of this Government Commission are discussed in the above paragraphs, which also corroborate the demand that the presently formed Commission regarding missing persons should be dissolved and another one formed. An on-service judge at Supreme Court of Pakistan should head the new one. United Nations representatives and Human Rights observers also should be included in the Commission, following the pattern of National Commission for Human Right's program, wherein UN officials were invited. The Supreme Court of Pakistan should make a decision in previous unsettled cases, while new independent Commission should deal fresh cases.