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HRCP to file petition in Supreme Court about missing persons

ISLAMABAD (February 09 2007): The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Thursday voiced concern over the condition and whereabouts of the missing persons and said that it would file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking their early recovery, says its annual report issued here.

The report was launched at a press conference, addressed by its Chairman I.A Rehman, Secretary General Iqbal Haider, Asma Jahangir and Kamila Hayat. In its 340-page detailed report, the HRCP covered almost all the areas and severely criticised the government’s policies with regard to the fundamental human rights, terming it less positive and more horrible during 2006.

However, the commission has welcomed the adoption of the Women Protection Act, 2006 saying that it is the most significant development in term of legislation. The report also hails the performance of Supreme Court for taking a record number of suo moto notices but it says that despite efforts of the court, institutional frameworks create hurdles in redressing problems of the masses.

About law and order, the report views that the conflicts in Balochistan and military actions in Waziristan adversely affected the welfare of masses. At least 110 people lost their lives during the period under review in terrorist attacks whereas there was an increase in murder, dacoity and street crimes and cases of extra-judicial killings by police continued to mount, it says.

The report further indicates that at least four media men were killed during the year and others either disappeared or faced intimidation at the hands of intelligence agencies.

The report says that the illegal detention of hundreds of people who had disappeared emerged as an extremely pressing human rights problem. The HRCP received reports of at least 400 disappearances and it had documented details of 150 by the end of 2006.

Besides, the report also claims that violence broke out at many jails and usually resulted from an attempt by prisoners protesting torture, maltreatment or other violations of their rights. Over 7,000 prisoners were on death roll with up to sometimes crammed into cell built to house one.

According to the report, as much as 8,559 Pakistanis were detained abroad with 5,158 in Saudi Arabia, 763 in India, 300 in Afghanistan, 406 in England, 287 in UAE, 207 in Kuwait, 100 in Hong Kong, 96 in Thailand, 122 in Qatar, 82 in Germany, 87 in Malaysia, 48 in Yemen, 53 in Japan, 54 in Sri Lanka and seven in China.

It was also noted that the foreign office did not keep any records of their location, the nature of their crimes or their status. In April 2006, the reports says a list was released by US authorities showing that 13 Pakistanis were detained at Guantanamo Bay.

In December 2005, it was reported over 100 Pakistanis detained in Thailand could be transferred to Pakistan if a ‘transfer of prisoners’ treaty was enforced but Pakistan had not signed the treaty, the report disclosed.

According to the report, as of April 2006, 7,379 male and 44 female prisoners were on death row in Pakistan and as per official report of the Punjab government released in March 2006, 6,500 convicted prisoners including 25 women were held in 812 death cells measuring 6 x 8 feet throughout Pakistan.

Iqbal Haider said that overall situation of human rights in Pakistan has been very grave ranging from Balochistan to Waziristan as the government brutally use its agencies against the people by arresting, kidnapping and killing.

He said that the whereabouts of most of the people is still unknown and the protestors were being insulted and humiliated by the law enforcing agencies.

He lamented that government is using forces against its own citizens for demanding their just rights as the case of killing of Akber Khan Bugti, and arresting of Akhter Mengal and other national leaders clearly exposes the worse state of human rights in the country.

About general elections 2007, he feared that these could not be held fair under the present set up and demanded of the government to establish an independent and impartial election commission and ending the military role in the elections.

I.A Rehman said that economic rights of the people had further declined during the year. He lamented that there was no system to redress the problems of the people despite identifying the miseries of the masses even by the Supreme Court by taking suo moto actions.

Asma Jahangir said that the findings of the commission show unsatisfactory picture about the government functioning. She lamented that despite adoption of Women Protection Bill, a woman was recently raped and forced to parade naked in Sindh and a couple was stoned to death in Punjab.

She said that in Okara, a teenage girl was allegedly raped and killed by a brother of a judge of Punjab High Court and despite the ruling of Supreme Court, DNA was not conducted and a police DSP was removed who was investigating the case. She said HRCP would file a petition in Supreme Court on Saturday seeking release and protection of the missing people.

Source: Business Recorder