“We can never forgive interning authority for the cruel atrocities of killing voiceless prisoners never ever given a chance to justice and due process of law” Amina Masood Janjua (DHR, Pakistan)
International Day For Victims of Enforced Disappearances (August 30th 2014)
Another year has past and “enforced disappearances” torture in custody and extra judicial killings show no sign of abating in Pakistan. I continue to receive messages from individuals informing me of deaths in internment centres and prisons where there appears to be a severe lack of independent monitoring of cases and almost no accountability. Many of those caught up have not stood trial and activists claim innocents are disappeared as part of a practice which grew out of a security clampdown urged by the US following 9/11.
Politicians that were keen to be photographed at protest camps pre-election now conveniently sideline the issue in favour of promoting self interests. Enforced disappearances also threatens the security of the country as insurgents launch retaliation attacks for killing of their men in custody.
Among those campaigning are the children of persons that have never been charged with any offence who are denied the security and support of a parent and the right to a family life…. disappearing a relative is one way to ensure radicalization of the next generation. These young ones are often to be seen marching the streets with the adults, sleeping at protests camps alongside their elders fighting for a loved one to be returned home.
Human Rights Watch condemns practice
No peace while loved ones are missing
Human Rights Watch issued its annual statement in advance of International Day For Enforced Disappearances (30th August) showing that little has changed over the past year and may in fact be set to get worse with the passing of the Protection of Pakistan Act 2014. The organization claims that this “facilitates enforced disappearances by retrospectively legitimizing detention at undisclosed locations and providing immunity to all state agents acting in ‘good faith’”. HRW states,
“on the eve of the annual International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch urge Pakistan’s government to stop the deplorable practice of state agencies abducting hundreds of people throughout the country without providing information about their fate or whereabouts.
Despite clear rulings from the Pakistan Supreme Court in 2013 demanding justice for victims of enforced disappearances, as well as recommendations from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in 2012, the Pakistan government has done little to meet its obligations under international law and the Pakistan Constitution to prevent enforced disappearances.
The government has failed to establish the facts about the fate and whereabouts of victims when disappearances occur, has failed to bring perpetrators to justice, and has failed to provide reparations to victims, including the families of the disappeared”
Full statement can be read here…
Amina Masood Janua “voice of disappeared” highlights cases
A life of protests and missing persons’ camps
Earlier this week Amina Masood Janjua whose husband Masood, an educator and business went missing whilst travelling on a bus with a friend Faisal Faraz, an engineer in 2005 drew attention to the fact that her organization Defence of Human Rights (DHR) has so far registered 2060 cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan with the number growing each day. She condemned the cruel practice stating, “Pakistan means Pakistanis- and if a Pakistani’s basic fundamental rights will be saved, if speedy justice is delivered to him, he will be happy and content, only then Pakistan can flourish. There is no other magic lamp for the progress, peace and prosperity of our nation.”
At a press conference in Islamabad, Janjua spoke to DAWN media alleging that 91 missing persons have been killed in detention centres across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). She also spoke about the case of Hammad Amir whom she claimed was killed in Kohat detention centre, one of a number of deaths linked to this institution and gave details as follows;
“Date: 17 Nov 2009, Time: Shortly after midnight. Police and plain clothed persons broke in the home of Hammad Amir in Rawalpindi. Hammad and his younger brother were arrested. Police assured the family that they are required for a simple investigation. In the morning local police completely denied any raid or arrest. Both brothers disappeared. A week later the younger one was dropped at a road side. Hammad remained missing until last year when he was declared by the authorities, during a case hearing in Supreme Court, as detained in an internment center in tribal area out of the jurisdiction of nation’s courts. He remained there without any allegation or trial. Under courts order family was allowed to meet him a few times. Family found him naturally weak but otherwise ok. Today morning a person from that tribal prison called and asked Hammad’s father to carry his son, Hammad, back home. . . .
I am at his Janaza (funeral) right now (August, 2014). They returned him dead. No explanations!”
The disappeared of Balochistan
Balochs march to highlight their missing persons
Earlier this year I reported on the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) who began their first phase of a peaceful “Long March” (730 km) against enforced disappearances from Quetta to Karachi on October 27th 2013. The second phase of the Long March continued from Karachi to Islamabad, a distance of over 1,400 kms in an effort to call the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to address what protesters term “state terrorism.”
See link, “Long March to protest “state terrorism” and the “disappeared” of Pakistan”
The International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (IVBMP) claim that those missing are mostly men and boys. Campaigners have fought to gain attention by staging a protest camp outside Quetta Press Club hoping for the safe release of “more than 18,000 Baloch activists” which they allege are currently being illegally detained by Pakistani forces. The following statement was posted on their Facebook page today;
“Balochistan is of particular concern because of a pattern of enforced disappearances targeting political activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and lawyers. Disappeared people are often found dead, their bodies bearing bullet wounds and marks of torture.
Earlier this year, eyewitnesses reported that Zahid Baloch, a human rights defender and chairperson of Baloch Student Organization-Azad, was abducted at gunpoint in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, allegedly by personnel of the Frontier Corps, a state security force widely implicated in enforced disappearances in the province. Despite widespread protests and appeals for his release from relatives and human rights groups, the authorities have failed to adequately investigate his abduction, determine his fate or whereabouts, and bring those responsible to justice.
In the weeks leading up to Pakistan’s Independence Day, 14 August, dozens of ethnic Baloch were arbitrarily arrested in the New Kahan area of Quetta, and Turbat and Kharan districts. At present, the fate or whereabouts of all of these people remain unknown”
To draw attention to the disappearance of Zahid Baloch, student Lateef Johar (age 22) initiated a hunger strike outside of Karachi Pres Club for 46 days.
See link, BBC “Abduction of activist Zaid Baloch highlights Balochistan plight”
Naveed Butt spokesperson for HuT kidnapped off the street
Naveed abducted in front of his children
Naveed Butt official spokesperson for Hizb -ut -Tahrir (HuT, Party of Liberation) was seized off the street in front of his frightened children in May 2012 and bundled into a car, he is still missing. The abduction appears to have been politically motivated as the HuT was campaigning (the Party state peacefully) to establish a Caliphate (Islamic state) under sharia law.
Naveed’s wife Saadia wrote an open letter to key figures in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani (Chief of Staff Pakistan Army) and former Director General of the Inter Services Security Agency (ISI), Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and President Asif Ali Zadari protesting his disappearance. She continues to organize demonstrations in the hope of him being released.
Naveed Butt is one of a long line of “enforced disappearances” in Pakistan which include academics, doctors, political activists, students and journalists.
See link… “Where is Naveed Butt?”
Anti-drone activist taken from his home
Kareem showing family members killed in US drone strike
Back in February 2014, I received the news that Kareem Khan an anti-drone activist had been abducted from his home in Rawalpindi on 5th February by men in Pakistani police uniforms and allegedly tortured whilst held. Kareem, who lost his son and his brother in a 2009 CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, had been due to travel to meet members of the UK, German and Dutch Parliaments.
He was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken away at gunpoint. He told CNN the following on release after one week in custody,
“My eyes still hurt from the tightness of the blindfold. My temples, eyes and forehead are all in pain because of how tight the blindfold was. My feet were constantly shackled and my feet were constantly handcuffed.
Khan said he was not able to pinpoint where he was taken, nor who his abductors were. The scene of his torture was an underground room.
They abused me using vulgar expletives. Hung me upside down and sat on me while one other person beat my feet”
(He could hear other people while he was in the torture cell, he said.)
See link from Amnesty International, “Pakistan anti-drone activist disappears”
Journalist Saleem Shahzad, abducted and murdered
My own colleague investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad with whom I ran a website Asia Despatch writing on socio-political issues was abducted on his way to a television studio in Islamabad 2011. I was informed by a Pakistani lawyer who made inquiries on my behalf that he was allegedly in an ISI (Inter- Services Intelligence spy agencies) “safe house” and was being reprimanded for a story he had written during the previous week. I was also told (as was his family in an anonymous phone call) he “would be home soon” and “not to worry”. Saleem had also written a book on the Taliban and al Qaeda which was just about to be released.
The lawyer panicked when he heard that Saleem’s body had been found on a canal bank in Mandi Bahauddin, 80 miles south-east of the capital, his car was retrieved 25 miles away. I received a photo of my deceased friend from a journalist showing heavy bruising to the face and the media reported a serious trauma wound to the stomach. An official inquiry failed to find who was responsible and the lawyer declined to give evidence.
See link, Committee to Protect Journalists, “Saleem Shahzad”
Bill to prevent torture, custodial deaths and custodial rape
FATA lawyers fight for change
There are efforts by lawyers to legislate to prevent human rights abuses of those that go missing and end up in the custody of the state. Sadly there is little interest from mainstream media in following the initiative and its progress through parliament. A Bill to prevent torture, custodial deaths and custodial rape is being moved by Senator Farhatullah Babar, Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP). It has been admitted by the Senate and prescribes stringent punishments for torture.
The proposed Bill defines ‘torture’ as an act intended to inflict physical or mental pain on a person in custody for securing a confessional statement or as a punishment for committing a suspected crime.
Read more on the Bill here,
Enforced disappearances threaten the security of Pakistan
Poster of Qare Abdurrahman alleged to have been killed in jail
The Pakistan government and opposition are failing to address the fact that disappearing people, abusing persons whilst in custody and extra- judicial killings are putting those working in detention facilities at risk of physical harm whether they are directly involved in this behaviour or not. The most obvious example is the execution of 23 Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers by Tehrik -i-Taliban (TTP) Mohmand Agency. The soldiers were executed in direct retaliation for the alleged killings of Taliban prisoners in state custody in Karachi and Peshawar as detailed in a written statement by Omar Khalid Khurrasani, Mohmand TTP leader.
I received this communication from TTP along with a video statement from their own media and had previously written a letter for the attention of Nawaz Sharif government in the hope that these alleged human rights abuses would be taken seriously during the so called “peace talks”. The Taliban held off on their threat of retaliation for 3 weeks allowing time for a response. There was no reply to my letter. A spokesperson for the Taliban told me,
“we killed 23 F.C personnel when they killed our 16 brothers in custody and threw their dead bodies on the road in Noshehra District”
Letter and full story can be read here,
Statement from Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesperson for newly formed Taliban group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar gave the following statement on disappeared persons and abuse in custody.
“You asked about our stance on Twitter in this regard so we are Muslims and our movement is an Islamic movement. We want to implement Islam in its actual form. Islam always teaches us to maintain equality and forbid us from (injustice) usurping the rights of others. Islam strictly forbid us from abducting, torturing and to imprison someone without any evidence.
It is quoted by respected Omar (May Allah be pleased with him): “I swear by Allah! no one will be held until fair people testify his guilt” so all these cruel actions have no place in Islam but in the ongoing battle between Islam and kufr, Muslims are being treated very badly abducting, torturing and killing of Muslims is now a common thing but our enemies cannot make us weak through these acts rather the spirit of revenge grows more in our hearts. As a result of these cruel acts, the youth of Islam are joining us because Islam teaches us to rise against oppression”
Amina Masood Janjua highlights state lawlessness and hypocrisy
Amina with husband Masood who was disappeared in 2005
Janjua sums up the issue of enforced disappearances with the following message,
“when state of Pakistan forcefully disappears its own citizens how can it stand against the forced disappearance of our brethren in Indian occupied Kashmir?
Regarding the illegal abduction by state forces, the real question to be asked is who has the authority to arrest, then imprison, then hear and decide a case and then execute a punishment. If all these roles are to be performed by only one department in complete secrecy than there is no need for any other law in this country. You can as well forget Quran and Sunnah.
The reality is that none of the missing persons has ever been alleged by any agency or state department for any crime. They are never presented in a court of law. They are never given an opportunity to defend themselves. If any of you think that Quran allows such summary executions than keep on believing what you want”
Press Statement, DHR (30th August, 2014)
Amina calls on the government to Surface, Rehabilitate and Compensate all victims of enforced disappearances and ratify the UN Convention against enforced disappearances.
Whilst recognizing the role of the Superior Judiciary for its efforts, she raises serious concerns about the role of the army, police and other law enforcement agencies along with civil departments that keep on defying court orders. She provides the following information on those missing or killed,
“DHR has registered and brought into the notice of authorities 2060 cases of enforced disappearances so far with the consent of the families of missing person. The actual number of disappearances could much Higher than ten thousand as numerous complaints reach us where families are reluctant to take any legal action for fear of reprisals.
Apart from the cases of disappearances registered by DHR Pakistan Government has declared another set of more than 2500 names which are detained in newly formed internment centers under Action in Aid of Civil Power Ordinance. These declared person are no better than missing person because they remain imprisoned in tribal areas where civil administration and courts have no jurisdiction. It appears that authorities has set a policy to terminate most of these interned persons because every other day one or two dead bodies are shipped out of these secret prisons.
DHR Pakistan has recorded 94 deaths of these interned persons so far. This is a state of emergency and demands immediate attention of Pakistan courts and local and international human rights bodies.”
Full press statement can be read here,
Amina’s story can be read on the following link, “Amina Masood Janjua championing the cause of Pakistan’s disappeared as she marks 8th anniversary of the search for her missing husband”
DAWN, “Missing Persons protesters teargassed in Islamabad”
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”.