LAHORE - Like other parts of the world, the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was observed across the country yesterday.

According to a latest report of Government’s Second Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances established in 2011, as many as 3522 cases reported out of total 421 were deleted upon not falling in category of enforced disappearance. Some 2,105 cases were decided and 1614 persons were traced.

Highest number of cases of enforced disappearances reported to the commission till July 20, 2016 was from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (1362), followed by Sindh (965), Punjab (682), Balochistan (265), Islamabad Capital Territory (110), FATA (101), Azad Kashmir (36), and Gilgit-Baltistan (1).

The Inquiry Commission demonstrated that forced disappearances have been reported from all parts of Pakistan and that they were not a thing of the past and is very much continuing in 2016.

In Pakistan, the practice of enforced disappearance has in recent years become a nationwide problem. While most prevalent in Balochistan, the federally and provincially administered tribal areas and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a number of cases are now also being reported from Sindh. To date, not a single perpetrator has been held to account according to Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Large-scale enforced disappearances in South Asia can only be addressed if all the region’s governments immediately criminalise this serious human rights violation, said lawyers and activists from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka during a Conference on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances. Te conference was organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and HRCP on the eve of the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

South Asia has among the highest number of alleged victims of enforced disappearance in the world: tens of thousands of cases have been documented in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and India, and since 2009, there has also been a surge in enforced disappearances in Bangladesh.

Between 1989 and 2009, more than 8,000 enforced and involuntary disappearances were reported in Kashmir alone.

“Sri Lanka’s ratification of the Convention on Enforced Disappearance and its pledge to criminalize the practice is a welcome step,” said HRCP Secretary General IA Rehman. “Other States in the region should now follow suit and show that they are serious about their commitment to human rights by making enforced disappearance a specific crime in their domestic law,” he added.

The UN General Assembly has repeatedly described enforced disappearance as “an offence to human dignity”.

In Lahore, Human rights activists yesterday staged a protest outside the press club and also urged the government to ratify the United Nations convention against disappearances.