THE cases of the missing persons that Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had been pursuing with vigour before he was unseated in March 2007 have now been virtually erased from public memory. The trauma of the families of those who have ‘disappeared’ no longer receives the media publicity it once did or the attention of the courts. The HRCP claims that the matter still tops its agenda. True, a lot was achieved from 2005 to (February) 2007 when of the 400 missing persons listed by the HRCP 240 had been traced. Now the list is said to contain 198 names of which 99 have been located. But even a single missing person who cannot be produced by the authorities under the law should be enough to make activists worry. It is not a case of violation of human rights alone. There is also the agony of the missing person’s family that is distressing.
The HRCP has done well to demand that the government sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which was adopted in 2006 but that has yet to come into force after the required number of 20 ratifications. Pakistan has not signed this instrument which lays down specific provisions to protect the rights of people. Among others, it provides for the process of the law being observed and the detained person being allowed to communicate with his family. Signing and ratifying the convention will serve two purposes. First, Pakistan would be making a political statement, with regard to the missing people, that would be appreciated internally, especially in Balochistan where the largest number of enforced disappearances has been reported. Second, it will encourage other states to ratify the convention, enabling the magic figure of 20 to be reached to allow the convention to come into force. (Dawn)