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‘Pakistanis Didn’t Gain Independence Only To Be Picked Up By Vigo Cars For Telling The Truth’

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz demanded an end to the practice of enforced disappearances in Pakistan.

The PML-N leader said the citizens of Pakistan did not fight for freedom only to get abducted by unknown people in ‘Vigo cars’ for telling the truth. Maryam said the culture of placing curbs on freedom of speech must come to an end.

She made these remarks while speaking during an All-Parties Conference (APC) organised by the Pakistan People’s Partry (PPP) in Islamabad.

On Sept 17, the federal cabinet formed a committee headed by the law and justice minister as its convener to control the incidents of enforced disappearances in the country.

The committee included the human rights minister, Islamabad chief commissioner, PM’s aide on accountability and interior, Islamabad police chief, and the representatives of the Intelligence Bureau and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as members, said notification dated Sept 8.

According to the notification issued by the government, the committee shall ‘deliberate on the reasons behind the enforced disappearances and give recommendations on how to control these incidents’. “The Ministry of Interior shall provide requisite Secretariat support to the committee,” it added.

Enforced disappearances:

Earlier this month, a former journalist and joint director of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Sajid Gondal, went missing in Islamabad. According to the family of the SECP official, Gondal’s car was found in front of the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) on Park Road, located in Chak Shahzad. However, Gondal was returned after a few days.

Similarly, a Sindhi writer Sarang Joyo was abducted by unknown people and was released after weeks. Journalist Matiullah Jan was kidnapped from Islamabad in broad daylight and released after 12 hours after strong backlash.

These are some of the prominent cases of enforced disappearances, as a number of people continue to go missing in the peripheries of Pakistan without any intervention by the government.

‘Stain on human rights record’:

According to Amnesty International, the enforced disappearances have long been a stain on Pakistan’s human rights record. Despite the pledges of successive governments to criminalize the practice, there has been slow movement on legislation while people continue to be forcibly disappeared with impunity, it adds.

The groups and individuals targeted in enforced disappearances in Pakistan include people from Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun ethnicities, the Shia community, political activists, human rights defenders, members and supporters of religious and nationalist groups, suspected members of armed groups, and proscribed religious and political organisations in Pakistan, says the rights watchdog.

In a recent brief release on Sept 8, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said that the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) has wholly failed to address entrenched impunity, leaving victims and their loved without any redress.

“Pakistan’s Federal Government constituted the COIED in March 2011, with a mandate to, among other things, ‘trace the whereabouts of allegedly enforced disappeared persons’ and ‘fix responsibility on individuals or organizations responsible’.”

While the Commission has “traced” the whereabouts of “missing persons” in a number of cases, it has failed to fix responsibility, it said, adding that the commission also doesn’t the representation of civil society and victim families.

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