Saturday, 14 January 2017
With impunity, Afrasiab Khattak
The Nation January 14, 2017
Enforced disappearances have remained a serious problem in terms of violation of human rights in Pakistan for a long time. But the scale and magnitude that this problem has acquired over the last one decade is frightening. The fourth military operation that started in Balochistan against Baloch nationalists in 2005 saw a growing number of Baloch political activists getting disappeared. Unfortunately, the parliament, political parties and the media didn’t focus on the Baloch disappeared persons. That’s why the problem has not only persisted but has acquired more serious dimensions.
The so called war on terror after 9/11 had its own share in intensifying the problem of enforced disappearances in Pakistan. At that stage, Pakistan was seen as the epicentre of international terrorism due to the presence of top leaders of the most dangerous international terror outfits here. But since the country lived in denial of the existence of extremism/terrorism for quite some time under General Musharraf, she could not develop an effective system of anti-terror laws and procedures to prosecute terrorists. The security agencies, meanwhile, started dealing with the problem in extra-judicial ways. The problem came to national and international limelight when the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took up the cases of missing persons. The apex court did provide some relief to a few individuals, but it could not resolve the problem as such. Ultimately a special commission under a retired judge of the Supreme Court was created to address the issue of missing persons, but not much progress has been made as the relevant authorities have failed to cooperate with the judicial commission.
But social media accounts supposedly run by the proxies of intelligence agencies have launched a vicious campaign against some of these bloggers for allegedly posting blasphemous material on their accounts. They are even recklessly hurling similar accusations towards political leaders, parliamentarians and civil society activists who are protesting against enforced disappearances. Knowing that levelling of such accusations is invitation to extremist violence, these elements are indulging in this practice with complete impunity. Is this a fascist tactic to silence the opposition? The other important question is that if any one of these bloggers have committed any offence, why are they not being properly arrested and produced in the court of law? Obviously no one will have any problem with that. But kidnapping and unjustified confinement is illegal and it can’t be justified under any pretext.
But so far, no such action is visible. On the contrary, accounts known for their vehement opposition to extremism, sectarianism and terrorism have been targeted. As mentioned earlier, if there is anything objectionable or any material that violates the law of the land in these accounts, the law must take its course. But impunity for the proscribed organisations creates serious questions about the role of state institutions. It’s particularly so when the honourable Interior Minister justifies his interaction with banned organisations on shaky ground, not strong enough to stand logic.