Amina Masood Janjua protests the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance legislation
Earlier this week I noted a message from Amina Masood Janjua (Defence of Human Rights, DHR) whose husband Masood is one of the many cases of “enforced disappearances” in Pakistan. It read, “missing persons families have blocked the gates of Parliament and started their sit-in protest for release of loved-ones and to condemn the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) to legitimize the illegal kidnappings of the innocent citizens by the secret agencies of Pakistan.”
In recent years, particularly post 9/11, human rights organizations claim that “missing persons” have been picked up by security services, alleged to have links with terrorist organizations and subjected to a catalogue of abuse. Campaigners state ordinary civilians have been plucked off the streets in this ongoing “purge” carried out as part of the War on Terror. Families are rarely informed as to their whereabouts and those that are “disappeared” are often denied legal representation, beaten, tortured, forced into false confessions and even killed see Pakistan, Terrorism and torture: How I was radicalized by the state https://activist1.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/pakistan-terrorism-and-torture-how-i-was-radicalized-by-the-state/
There are currently ongoing challenges to protect the rights of missing persons in court however protesters fear that PPO would effectively legally endorse such abuse. Talking to Gandaharaa, Asma Jahangir, a prominent Pakistani activist, argued that with the introduction of PPO, “the whole country will turn into a ‘Guantanamo Bay’ where people can be detained without any warrants and trials.” She raised the question, “how can an elected government enact such legislations?”
PPO, referred to as a “black law” by protesters allows security forces to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without disclosing their whereabouts or the allegations against them. There is also provision for suspects to be tried in “special courts” which are allowed to exclude the public from hearings and withhold details of proceedings. This is particularly disturbing given a spate of recent deaths in custody including that of 22 year old Kaleemullah.
According to DAWN This young man was allegedly picked up by security services outside a mosque near Rawalpindi in June 2013 accused of links with the Taliban. His father, Younis Farooq (retired from the army) was notified on January 1st, 2014 that Kaleemullah was in hospital but could only recover a corpse.
Janua told me that this was the fifth notification of a dead body her organization had received in two months with “reports of many more though families are scared to come forward even to launch a complaint.”
Remembering the “missing persons” outside parliament
As well as detaining individuals, security forces have now been granted powers to open fire on anyone they see committing or “likely to commit” any of a list of terror-related offences. Janjua argued that, “Protection of Pakistan Ordinance is quite different from the disposition of a soldier, policing is an attitude to be cultivated with sheer training and practice. Instead of improving the capacity of police, all the personnel of all the armed forces of Pakistan are given the powers of police under this ordinance. Remember Kharotabad, Quetta.”
The Kharotabad Incident refers to the shooting of five Russian and Tajik citizens at a FC (Frontier Corps) checkpoint in May 2011. Those attacked, three women (one pregnant) and two men were alleged to be suicide bombers but found to be unarmed with no trace of carrying explosives. A police surgeon who testified against the official account was later also shot dead.
Unarmed woman shot dead, Kharotabad
At a time when talks between the Pakistan government and Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) are being mooted with a four man team named today to pursue dialogue, it is vital that the state protects the human rights of all. In a recent statement TTP warned that those working in prisons and police stations should amend their conduct (referring to abuse and torture) or their families could be a risk of a retaliation attack. If the state is to maintain any credibility in tackling terrorism it must first stop practising terrorism itself and not attempt to legalize abuse.
After the day long protest at the gate of Parliament House on the 27th January, Deputy Speaker Mr Murtaza Abbasi of PML(n) came out and promised to arrange a meeting with prime minister Nawaz Sharif and campaigners within two days to discuss the missing persons issue. However the group had been promised the same three months ago by District President Lahore MPA Perwaiz Malik on behalf of CM Shehbaz Sharif so were not optimistic of this actually happening.
Today, determined as ever, Janua sent an SMS message to Murtaza Abbasi, deputy speaker at the National Assembly it read, “I am Amina Masood janjua, we met you at the parliament gates and you promised to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister of Pakistan within 2 days. Kindly honour your promise. We will be obliged please. If you cannot arrange meeting by Monday 3rd of February, I will hold another sit in protest Inshallah. Regards Amina Masood Janjua.”
Into the terrifying world of Pakistan’s disappeared (Robert Fisk) http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-into-the-terrifying-world-of-pakistans-disappeared-1923153.html
New Pakistani counter terrorism law draws criticism from rights groups (Gandaharaa)… http://www.gandaharaa.com/content/article/25245630.html
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.