By: Jessica Ties
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Following the failure of authorities to present two missing individuals to the Supreme Court, Amnesty International is calling on Pakistan to identify hundreds of people who are believed to have “disappeared” at the hands of Pakistani agencies.
A person is said to have “disappeared” when they are detained by government officials who then deny knowledge of their whereabouts.
Amnesty International noted the case of Mazar ul Haq who disappeared in 2007 after being accused of attacking Army Headquarters run by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency.
Although ul Haq and the ten other men arrested with him were cleared by the Anti-Terrorism Court, they went missing again after being kidnapped from a high security jail.
Since being kidnapped in May 2010, four of the eleven men have died in custody. While Pakistan’s intelligence agencies maintain that the men died naturally, the attorney of one of the deceased has stated that his client was tortured to death.
Mazar ul Haq appeared in court in February 2012, four years after disappearing, surprising his family who did not whether he was alive or dead during the time he was missing.
Ul Haq and six other men were presented to the Supreme Court looking severely emaciated and some had urine bags protruding from their pants.
The allegations of abuse in combination with increased public pressures has prompted the Pakistani Supreme Court to not only order intelligence agencies to explain the poor conditions that the remaining seven men arrested are being kept in but to also order the creation of the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances.
Despite the creation of this commission in 2010, disappearances continue to be reported.
Although the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has been attempting to identify the number of those kept in secret detention for years, they have reported that verifying the actual number has been nearly impossible.
It is estimated, however, that 1,000 people have disappeared at the hands of intelligence agencies since 2001. Of the estimated 1,000, approximately five hundred are still missing and the dead bodies of dissidents are regularly found.
Enforced disappearances were rare in Pakistan before September 11, 2001. Following the attacks on the United States, authorities began using the disappearances against activists advocating for ethnic rights and justified such action as necessary for the “war on terror” led by the United States.
For more information, please see:
Amnesty International – Pakistan Must Account for Missing Victims of Enforced Disappearances – 16 April 2012
Pakistan Daily Times – No Forced Disappearance Should Escape Attention: HRCP – 3 April 2012
The Guardian –Pakistan’s Spy Agency ISI Faces Court Over Disappearances – 9 February 2012
Amnesty International – Denying the Undeniable: Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan – 22 July 2008