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“Missing persons commission failed in duties; 2,200 still missing”

Supreme Court live hearing

Chief Justice Isa expressed the court’s determination to address the persistent issue of missing persons and enforced disappearances in the country. The CJ, alongside Justices Musarrat Hilali and Muhammad Ali Mazhar, presided over a set of petitions challenging the phenomenon, including a plea from former senator and prominent lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan.

During the live broadcast of the hearing, Advocate Shoaib Shaheen, representing Ahsan, implored the apex court to acknowledge the petition and assert that enforced disappearances violate various articles of the Constitution. Shaheen further called for a declaration that the existing Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances falls short of legal and international standards.

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The lawyer, citing a 2011 notification by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), argued that the commission had failed in its responsibilities, with over 2,200 individuals still missing without any information. Justice Isa questioned whether the petitioner sought the dismissal of the commission, highlighting that its formation was a positive step.

Shaheen raised concerns about the disappearance of political activists, including Usman Dar, Sheikh Rasheed, Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, Azam Swati, and others. However, the CJP cautioned against politicising the matter, emphasising the need to refrain from using such incidents for political purposes.

The lawyer also highlighted the issue of enforced disappearances in Balochistan, referencing a missing bill presented by former human rights minister Shireen Mazari. Justice Isa questioned Mazari’s responsibility and expressed surprise at a minister claiming her bill had vanished.

Shaheen underscored allegations against the state in a significant number of missing persons’ cases, including short-term disappearances of Baloch students. Justice Isa recalled his tenure as the chief justice of the Balochistan High Court (BHC), where cases related to missing persons were addressed regularly.

The CJP insisted on a list of missing persons with names and dates, and the lawyer assured that the inquiry commission would provide details. The court inquired about any changes in the commission’s members since its formation in 2011, to which Shaheen confirmed stability.

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As the hearing adjourned until the following day (January 3), the CJP emphasised the gravity of the matter, instructing the lawyer to prepare bullet points on the court’s potential actions. He also urged consultation with Defence of Human Rights Chairperson Amina Masood Janjua, warning against the politicisation of the issue.

Simultaneously, Baloch protesters announced a nationwide shutterdown demonstration on January 3, accusing state officials of attempting to discredit the Baloch long march and sit-in in Islamabad as “propaganda.” The protesters, stationed outside the National Press Club for over a week, expressed their movement against prolonged enforced disappearances and murders in Balochistan. Dr Mahrang Baloch, a protest organizer, asserted that the residents of the province supported their cause.

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